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Education in England: Creative Arts and Well-being

Written by Millie Marks

Introduction


When discussing the current situation regarding young people’s well-being in England, it is necessary to be informed of the possible causes for the low rates of well-being among young people in the English education system. In this dissertation, I will discuss the model of the English education system, the purpose of education and the hierarchy of subjects at Key Stage 4 (KS4) as contributing factors to young people’s well-being in England. I will then explore promoting the creative arts in the curriculum at KS4 for a more holistic education, as a means for improving the well-being of students.

The ‘factory model’ of education was designed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, during the technological revolution, when schools’ primary purpose was to prepare the population for work in factories (Leland and Kasten, 2002, p. 5). The ‘factory model’ still sets the foundation of the current education system in England (Robinson and Aronica, 2006). Frank Serafini describes the ‘factory model’ as a school where ‘the child was viewed as a product, the school was designed as an educational factory, and standardised testing became the quality control mechanism for measuring educational progress’ (Serafini, 2002, p.67). There has been continuing resistance to the ‘factory model’ of education over the past five decades (Serafini; Leland; Kasten; Robinson; Aronica). Daniel Pennac, a French writer, argued that school cannot be a place of pleasure and should ‘enforce the competitive nature of the institution’ (Pennac, 1994, p.92). This highlights the use of teacher-centred pedagogy in England, with a focus on a more behaviourist pedagogy, which has been criticised (Kyriacou et al., 2009; Hartley, 2003).

There is compelling evidence that levels of well-being among students have decreased in the past ten years, from sources such as the NHS, ChildLine, British Youth Council, the NSPCC and The Children’s Society. Levels of stress and anxiety have risen, with school being named as one of the most common reasons for this (The Children's Society, 2010, p. 4-10).

In order to determine whether schools are fulfilling their purpose, it is necessary to determine and evaluate the purpose of education. This requires research into changes in society including personal development (Beghetto and Kaufman, 2014), employment (UK Commission for Employment and Skills, 2018), economics (GOV.UK, 2018) and career trends (CareerBuilder, 2014), all of which affect well-being.

The curriculum in England is influenced by the belief that certain subjects are of higher value than others; in particular, maths and sciences are seen as more important than the arts and vocational subjects (Bleazby, 2015, p.673). This is reflected by the work of Gardner, who argued the existence of multiple intelligences rather than one ‘human intelligence’ (Gardner, 1963). The different levels of value assigned to subjects has led to a hierarchy within the school curriculum, which is often referred to as the ‘traditional curriculum hierarchy’ (Bleazby, 2015, p.672).

Jennifer Bleazby (2015), who researches between philosophy and educational theory, discusses the traditional curriculum hierarchy as deriving from Plato’s understanding of ‘knowledge as certainty’ (Bleazby, 2015, p. 672). Bleazby proposes a non-hierarchical curriculum, drawing on John Dewey, a philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer, and his theories. Dewey’s theories emphasise the importance of learning through experience, using interactive, creative activities to develop scientific insight (Dewey, 1974). Filio Constantinou (2017), an educational researcher, explains the hierarchy of subjects in terms of the ‘branding’ of subjects, as either strong or weak. Subject branding may be a contributing factor to low levels of well-being, as students might choose subjects due to their ‘brand’ rather than for their enjoyment and talent in the subject.

The conservative government has made efforts to improve the education system in England, including the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (Ebacc) in 2010 and the reformation of GCSEs in 2013, which the Department for Education (DfE) said was done in order ‘to make them more challenging’. The Ebacc is a measure of a schools performance based on the number of A*-C grades achieved in English language and literature, mathematics, at least two sciences, geography or history and a language other than English at General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) level, KS4.

There are no arts subjects included in the Ebacc. This is due to their difficult testability using standardised testing, and the traditional curriculum hierarchy. The exclusion of the arts in the Ebacc has caused a decrease in funding and therefore accessibility of arts subjects at GCSE level, with some arts subjects being withdrawn completely (Department for Education, 2013, p.6). There has been much condemnation of the Ebacc and its exclusion of the arts from artists such as Tracey Emin, Antony Gormley, Grayson Perry and Bob and Roberta Smith (The Guardian, 2019). There have also been calls to abolish the Ebacc from three former education secretaries, Lord Baker, Lord Blunkett and Baroness Morris of Yardley along with two former Ofsted chiefs Sir Michael Wilshaw and Sir Mike Tomlinson (Tes, 2019).

This dissertation will aim to discuss how the aforementioned factors affect the well-being of students, suggesting a prioritisation of the creative arts in school, particularly ages 13-16, to offer a holistic education and improve the students’ levels of well-being.



Chapter 1: Young People’s Well-being



In the NHS report, Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2017, it is clear that emotional disorders have increased in 5 to 15 year olds in recent years, with numbers of emotional disorders up from 3.9% in 2004 to 5.8% by 2017 (NHS, 2018). Growing concern about the rising numbers of adolescents and young people with low levels of well-being and life satisfaction has led to the UK’s Young Parliament making mental health services a priority campaign (British Youth Council, 2015, p. 2). There is a pattern of well-being decreasing with age, with children aged 13-15 years old reporting higher levels of unhappiness than those at 10-12 years old, and higher levels of unhappiness being reported again in 17-19 year olds (The Children's Society, 2010, p.8).



Fig. 1: Well-being by different domains in age group (The Children's Society, 2010)


From figure 1 we can see that school-related unhappiness is amongst the top causes of low well-being among both primary and secondary school age groups and is higher in secondary school age group than primary school age group. This evidence poses the question of why school is such a large cause for unhappiness among students. DfE reformed GCSEs to make them more challenging in 2010. Since then Childline reported a 200% increase in counselling sessions concerning exam stress, with school and education problems also appearing in Childline's top ten concerns (NSPCC, 2014). Recently, levels of exam stress are rising (NSPCC, 2017). This is most likely due to increasing amounts of pressure, with students concerned that the results of the exams will have long term effects on their futures (Helliwell; NSPCC, 2017; Full Fact).

Roger Taylor, the chair of the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulations (Ofqual) says that students are “mentally fragile” which is why there has been a rise in exam anxiety. This argument highlights that schools are not facilitating students to develop coping strategies for high levels of stress. Other arguments state that the rise in exam stress and anxiety is because more young people are speaking out about it, which is positive for destigmatising and decreasing mental health issues (McInerney, 2017). Young people opening up about their issues is positive, but it does not eliminate the need to address the cause of the issues, which in this case is exams. Preventing mental health issues from developing should be prioritised, this would lead to less pressure on mental health services. The government is under large strains with services for mental health issues, with one in four children who are referred to specialist mental health services being rejected in 2017/18 (Education Policy Institute, 2019, p. 2-5). The increasing stress and anxiety due to school shows that this issue relates to a large portion of the population, indicating the need for the English school system to be reviewed. This increased pressure, anxiety and stress around exams can have potentially long-term, negative knock-on effects on other aspects of an individual’s life, including depression, panic attacks and worsening of pre-existing mental health issues (NSPCC, 2017). There is not an isolated cause for low levels of well-being, as seen in figure 1, there are many contributing factors to stress and anxiety among young people. For the sake of this dissertation, when discussing well-being, stress and anxiety caused by school will be the focal point.

The high levels of stress related to exams and school indicates a cause for reconsidering the education system. In order to determine whether the education system is allowing schools to succeed in their purpose, we must understand the purpose of education.


Chapter 2: Purpose of Education



Society has changed hugely since the ‘factory model’ of education was designed, therefore we must review how and whether the current school system, which is based on the ‘factory model’, serves these changes. In order to prepare the nation’s young people for the current climate, in terms of careers, we need to update our education system (Robinson; Leland and Kasten). The general purpose of school is not all that different to what it was when the ‘factory model’ was designed; to prepare young people for life after education. However, the school model and curriculum in England is still based on preparing young people for a life after education similar to that of 100 years ago (Leland and Kasten, 2002, p. 5).

Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica (2018) wrote that the aims of education are ‘to enable students to understand the world around them and the talents within them so that they can become fulfilled individuals and active, compassionate citizens’ (Robinson and Aronica, 2018, p. 100). In order to fully understand the world and be active, one must have the ability to question and critically analyse the world around them. With so many young people feeling they are failures because their talents are or were not valued in school or were even stigmatised (Robinson and Aronica, 2006), is proof enough that our school system is set up for only a limited number to succeed. Those who do not excel in what is deemed valuable in the current education model, are not provided with the necessary tools to develop their own talents and interests. This makes it more difficult to succeed, leading to higher stress and anxiety due to pressure and concern about disappointing parents which therefore causes lower well-being (NSPCC, 2019).


Fig. 2: UK sectoral shares of employment disaggregated by sub-sector, 1920 to 2016 (Office for National Statistics, 2019)


One aim of education is to help young people find employment in order to become independent. We can see from figure 2 that manufacturing jobs were the largest area of employment when the ‘factory model’ of education was designed, compared to now when it is amongst the smallest sectors and has the largest decrease in numbers, going from 25.3% to 9.45% over 100 years. Many careers did not exist or have developed hugely since the early 1900s, including application development, digital marketing, blogging, sustainability managers, and freelance designers. This increase in the variety of jobs has led to an increase in creative careers (nesta), with the creative sector becoming a significant player in terms of economic growth. Jeremy Wright, the UK’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport stated that the UK economy has been outperformed by the economy of the creative industries (GOV.UK, 2018). The Future of Work study, commissioned by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, shows the increasing importance of the arts, as well as skills developed through participation in the arts. The study discusses technological growth having large implications on work; the creative industry is the least threatened industry to automation (House of Commons: Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, 2019; Haldane, 2018). The study also states that ‘employees will require the competencies to work across different disciplines, to collaborate virtually, and to demonstrate cultural sensitivity’, making the case for a holistic education with a broad curriculum (UK Commission for Employment and Skills, 2018). The study also states that it will be necessary for employees to be responsible for their own skills development, requiring a desire and eagerness for life-long learning (UK Commission for Employment and Skills, 2018).

In order to understand the full potential of ‘creativity’ we must understand that creativity is not limited to having an ability to draw, sing or dance but is ‘the ability to produce or use original and unusual ideas’ (Cambridge Dictionary) which are important parts of many careers. This growth of the creative sector has not been reflected in the changes that have been implemented in the education system in recent years. The implementations made have harmed accessibility of the creative arts (Cultural Learning Alliance, 2019), leading to less development of creativity.

When young people finished school in the early 20th century, they were likely to find a job which they had been trained for in school, and remain in that job for most of their working lives. Today’s youth are in a very different situation. In the 21st century, it is highly likely that any individual will work multiple jobs throughout their lifetime, a CareerBuilder survey found that approximately 25% of young employees will have worked five jobs before the age of 35 (CareerBuilder, 2014). Changes in the nature of work have caused more uncertainty when it comes to career paths in today’s society. This means that it is vital for today’s youth to be able to deal with uncertainty and constant, rapid-changing in the course of their lives. Despite this, the education system, with the supposed purpose of preparing students for life after education, is still preparing young people as though they will be in a single career for the rest of their lives. The inevitability of this constant change strongly resonates with Calouste Gulbenkian’s statement that ‘children do not hatch into adults after a secluded incubation at school’ (Gulbenkian, 1989, p. 4). Gulbenkian is emphasising the necessity for a school to prepare its students for their own future. An education system must be relevant to the climate and society in which it exists. When the world outside of the school changes, the school system must update and adapt to fully prepare students for their future.

The ‘factory model’ of education was designed to be efficient and easy to measure (Murphy, 1997, p. 264), therefore standardised testing was the best mechanism to measure the success of students. The Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT) is unlike any standardised test in that there are no specific answers to aim for. An example of a task used in the TTCT is the ‘Unusual Uses’ task, where the participant is asked to name as many unusual uses for a specific object as possible (Clapham, 2004, p.830). The tasks allow for open-ended answers, encouraging creative thinking and extensive use of the imagination. This is an example of how standardised testing strongly contrasts tests designed to measure creativity, concluding that it is difficult for creativity to be expressed through standardised testing.

In order for education to fulfil its purpose, using Ken Robinson’s aims for education, it would need to allow for each ‘student to understand…the talents within them’ (Robinson and Aronica, 2018, p. 100). Within the narrow curriculum in secondary schools in England there is limited possibility for students to find their talents and passion. Students that want to pursue low priority subjects in the curriculum are often left believing that their talents are useless or invaluable (Robinson and Aronica, 2006), often causing them to prioritise other subjects and disregard those which they enjoy. In order to allow students to ‘become fulfilled individuals’, they must be encouraged to flourish in their environment and be equipped with the skills necessary to fully develop as individuals. The low levels of well-being in students and young adults in recent years (NHS, 2018; NSPCC, 2017; The Children's Society, 2010) show that young people are not being equipped with these skills. By failing to create an environment where children can develop the skills necessary to become a fulfilled individual, it can be said that schools are not fulfilling their purpose. Skills such as problem solving and creative thinking can help develop coping strategies which can be useful during uncertain and emotionally difficult times (Tan et al., 2019) which, as discussed previously, is inevitable in the 21st century. These types of skills can be applied throughout many different areas in life, therefore learning them at school allows them to be applied throughout an individual’s life, which may relieve stress and unhappiness not only in school but also in their personal life (GOV.UK, 2019).


Chapter 3: Traditional Curriculum Hierarchy



When the ‘factory model’ of education was designed, human intelligence was described as a single concept (Gardner and Hatch, 1989). Gardner argued that there are seven intelligences rather than one ‘human intelligence’ (Gardner 1963). This led to the realisation that the school model was largely focused on logical-mathematical and linguistic intelligences due to their testability, excluding the other five types of intelligence; musical, spatial, bodily-kinaesthetic, interpersonal and intrapersonal (Gardner and Hatch, 1989). This contributes to the traditional curriculum hierarchy, explored by Bleazby (2015), which is the belief that maths and sciences are seen as more important than the arts and vocational subjects. Please refer to figure 3 for further details of the traditional curriculum hierarchy.


Fig. 3: Traditional curriculum hierarchy (Bleazby, 2015)


Figure 3 is a detailed breakdown of the traditional curriculum hierarchy from Jennifer Bleazby (2015). The arts have been included in tier 2, yet in a limited capacity due to the focus on theory and classics within these subjects. The focus on theory and classics reduces the variety of skills learnt and developed through practical exploration of these subjects. Bleazby (2015) argues that Plato’s understanding of ‘knowledge as certainty’ informs this curriculum as the subjects at the top are ‘certain’ subjects, compared to those lower down which are ‘experiential’ subjects. By building the curriculum around the belief that knowledge is certainty, the hierarchy is accentuated. 

It is clear that the Ebacc further embeds this hierarchy, from the exclusion of any subjects that lie in tier 3 or 4. The government’s ambition is for 90% of students at GCSE level to take a combination of the Ebacc subjects by 2025 (GOV.UK, 2019). 23.2% of students take seven or less GCSEs (Cambridge Assessment, 2017). The Ebacc consists of at least seven GCSEs, meaning that if 90% of students were to take a combination of Ebacc subjects, approximately 21% of all students would only study Ebacc subjects, excluding one fifth of students from the opportunity to study any arts. The DfE stated that 'the Ebacc is a set of subjects at GCSE that keeps young people’s options open for further study and future careers’ (GOV.UK, 2019), this only enforces the expectation that the applied arts and vocational subjects are not valued, as they are seen as ‘weak’ brands (Constantinou, 2017). The exclusion of the arts implies that the creative arts should be continued as extra to academic studies, not studied alongside or in their place (Adams, 2011). The use of standardised testing communicates to students the idea that one form of intelligence is more highly valued than others, discouraging them from fully exploring their talents through multiple intelligences. A considerable reason that the arts are not highly valued might be due to the belief that the arts do not lead to careers that have large effects on the economy. As discussed earlier, there has been considerable economic growth in the creative industry and increasing relevance for creativity across different industries (GOV.UK, 2018; House of Commons: Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, 2019; Haldane, 2018).

There have been recent funding cuts in the arts, one in ten schools that responded to a BBC survey stated that one or more creative arts subjects had reduced facilities, lesson time or staff (Jeffreys, 2018). This is shown by the 22% decrease in the take up of the applied arts, alongside the 23% decrease in teaching hours of the applied arts despite the 2% increase in the number of children in England’s secondary schools since 2010 (Cultural Learning Alliance, 2019). This may suggest that the Ebacc has not kept ‘options open for further study and future careers’ as was intended, as it has made certain subjects less accessible (GOV.UK, 2019). The inaccessibility is exaggerated in the state system compared to private schools, worsening educational inequality, due to tighter budgets leading to harsher cuts (Durham University, 2019, p.71).

As no applied arts are required or encouraged at GCSE, students must instigate an interest themselves at the age of 13 or 14 if they intend to continue with an art. When deciding GCSE subjects, students often prioritise the usefulness of a subject over difficulty and enjoyment (Ofqual, 2017). This shows the importance of exposure to a diverse range of potential career options. Due to cuts in the applied subjects, there are limited resources, limiting exposure to the possibilities these subjects offer. This bias in terms of career prospects can cause students to end their exploration of the applied arts due to unclear vision in career development. Proof of the variety of career opportunities that come from studying art is the sheer number of subjects offered at different art schools, for example University of the Arts London (UAL), which offers over 100 undergraduate degree courses in the creative arts (UAL). Academic subjects are seen to be more useful when discussing career prospects but more research is resulting in the growing understanding of the importance of creativity across multiple sectors (House of Commons: Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, 2019; Haldane, 2018).

The introduction of the Ebacc and the reform of GCSEs imply that the government believes that in order to improve education in England, it is necessary to make the existing model of education more difficult. This has meant continuing to focus on logical-mathematical and linguistic intelligences, excluding a high proportion of students from success.


Chapter 4: Arts and Well-being



Educational settings are accessible and effective ways of providing mental health care, particularly for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children (Beauregard, 2014). Studies have found that in-school treatment and/or prevention for mental health is often more convenient, making it less likely to become overlooked and neglected (Beauregard, 2014; Young Minds, 2017). There is a stigma surrounding mental health which prevents people from seeking help when it may be necessary (Sickel, Seacat and Nabors, 2014). Building educational settings which consider the students’ well-being and mental health would likely reduce the necessity for students to seek help elsewhere as well as helping to destigmatise mental health (Young Minds, 2017). This would allow more students to receive the support necessary, reducing the deterioration of mental health and relieving pressure from services.

King’s College London and UCL (King’s College London, 2019) launched the world’s largest study carried out in the arts in relation to mental and physical health in October 2019, showcasing the growing case for the effects of the arts on well-being. The increasing number of studies being carried out measuring the impact of the arts and cultural engagement on the population mean there is more evidence becoming available for the arts as a tool to improve well-being and mental health (CASE, 2010; Winner and Hetland, 2007; Conner, DeYoung and Silvia, 2016). There is limited availability of case studies focusing on the effects of the curriculum on secondary school students’ well-being, therefore I will discuss a number of examples where the arts have a positive effect on well-being in similar settings.

Understanding the impact of engagement in culture and sport, a report carried out by the Culture And Sport Evidence (CASE) programme, found some key results to strengthen the argument for the arts and culture in the development of young people (CASE, 2010). The CASE report concluded that participation in arts activities improves transferable skills ‘including self-constructs, communication skills, social skills and creativity’ (CASE, 2010, p.23). During school, students experience stress from a number of different situations including, but not limited to, exams, presentations, social situations and relationships. Improving communication skills can help reduce stress surrounding challenges such as presentations and oral examinations, as well as helping build personal relationships. Reduced stress in all of these areas of life help to improve an individual’s well-being. The development of these skills shows the importance of the arts alongside a variety of other subjects, and how a holistic, non-hierarchical education is necessary in order for these skills to be put into practice and developed. These skills are vital to developing oneself and becoming a confident individual; having confidence in oneself and high self-esteem can help improve mental health and well-being (NHS, 2019; Mind, 2019; National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2016).

There are a number of programs across the country designed to cater for students whose interests lie in the arts. Although these programs are positive for the recognition of the importance of the arts, their existence as separate institutions shows the inaccessibility of the arts in mainstream schools. This inaccessibility necessitates a certain level of curiosity for individuals to find arts programmes and apply to them, requiring confidence and desire to learn, which are underdeveloped skills in schools. OYAP Trust is a charity empowering young people through the arts (OYAP Trust, 2019), running multiple programmes in collaboration with organisations working in the arts. OYAP found that participation in the arts improved resilience, positive relationships and coping strategies for life (OYAP Trust, 2019). Kick Arts is a programme run by OYAP where participants lead their own work, this was found to improve levels of confidence and self-esteem (OYAP Trust, 2019). This method of teaching focuses on strength-based practices, a method of delivering education focusing on developing an individual’s strengths, encouraging self-development.

As Bob and Roberta Smith wrote in his Letter to Michael Gove ‘education is about sewing seeds not setting standards for the shape of bananas’ (Smith, 2011). This metaphor visualises how the education system is shaping the youth of our nation. School should be a period in an individual’s life when their interests and talents are discovered and they are eager to build these talents. The narrow curriculum in schools in England today limits students’ opportunity to find their passions and talents, as subjects are less accessible if they are in a lower tier of the traditional curriculum hierarchy. Grades are deemed to be one of the most important aspects of school; due to this experimentation and development are limited as students become fearful of making mistakes (Robinson, 2006). The Ebacc’s prioritisation of certain subjects above others is a reflection of the government’s lack of awareness of the importance of self-development and experimentation as well as the benefits of strengths-based learning. Focusing on an individual’s strengths and developing those strengths increases their awareness of their own abilities, leading to higher self-confidence as shown in a study surrounding strength-based learning carried out by Atkinson and Robson (2012).

Most studies surrounding creativity and well-being focus on how creativity is affected by the emotional state of the participant, whereas a study by Tamlin Conner, Colin DeYoung and Paul Silvia discusses whether creativity has an effect on well-being (Conner, DeYoung and Silvia, 2016). Using a group of 658 participants, aged 17-25, they measured the levels of positive affect (PA), negative affect (NA) and flourishing, in relation to levels of creative activities and concluded that participation in higher amounts of creative activity than usual results in higher levels of PA and flourishing (Conner, DeYoung and Silvia, 2016, p.184). Although this study was focused on 17-25 year olds, it is still relevant in arguing the case for the arts in KS4 because often, further participation in the arts is limited if they are not studied at GCSE level (Oxford Summer School from Oxford Royale Academy, 2014).

A study carried out by Ellen Winner and Lois Hetland in two schools in Boston, found that the arts have been proven to teach and develop skills such as perseverance, expression and an ability to make connections. They observed four kinds of thinking that are not taught elsewhere in the curriculum, ‘observing, envisioning, innovating through exploration, and reflective self-evaluation’ (Winner and Hetland, 2007, p.2). These ways of thinking are difficult to quantify, making them difficult to test, therefore in an education model based around standardised testing, these skills are often neglected. These skills are further examples of the transferable skills learnt through the arts; they are important across a range of careers, including medicine, naturalists, lawyers and many more, they are not limited to ‘artistic’ careers.

Envisioning was one of the skills found to be taught through the arts at one of the Boston schools. Envisioning is a vital skill for innovation, because it develops the ability to imagine what is not there. This is particularly important in an age where technology is developing at such a fast pace and climate change is becoming an evermore urgent issue that needs addressing in new and innovative ways. An education system set on succeeding in standardised tests gives little opportunity to transform mistakes into chances to improve, they are instead seen as failures, leading to low self-esteem and possibly depression. The study in Boston found that teachers in the arts ‘told students not to worry about mistakes, but instead to let mistakes lead to unexpected discoveries.’ (Winner and Hetland, 2007, p.2). This permission to explore can allow for huge personal growth and lead to much more creative thinking and a higher ability to problem solve, both of which are important skills for well-being (Tan et al., 2019). The type of thinking practiced in the arts is harder to document and test which is why the arts are thought to be easier when, in reality, it is limited testing surrounding the arts that leads to this conclusion being drawn. With a school system based around standardised testing and efficiency, the DfE would need to develop new testing methods, which may not be as efficient as standardised testing.


Conclusion



It is clear that school is a major cause of low well-being and poor mental health among children and young people (The Children’s Society, 2010). This is caused by a combination of factors including; exam stress and anxiety, talents being undervalued, personal pressure as well as external pressure, government’s introduction of Ebacc and reformation of GCSEs, narrowing of the curriculum leading to funding cuts for the arts.  With no evidence suggesting an improvement in the levels of students’ well-being and the increasing pressure on services providing mental health care it is clear that this is an issue of urgency. This, alongside growing evidence that participation in the arts improves well-being and mental health, provides sufficient evidence to question why there are no arts included in the Ebacc, which is intended that 90% of students will participate in by 2025 (GOV.UK). 

The decreasing awareness surrounding the value of the arts in education has led to the exclusion of the arts, causing barriers including; inaccessibility to the arts, lack of exposure for career prospects, stigma towards subjects deemed lower in value, limited development in a range of skills, as well as lower self-confidence. These may have long-term effects for those without the opportunity to participate in the arts. Educational settings are accessible and effective ways of preventing mental health issues as well as providing care for those experiencing such issues (Beauregard, 2014). A holistic education with a non-hierarchical curriculum would allow for schools to fulfil the purpose of education in raising young people to become fulfilled and aware individuals, allowing for students to explore and develop throughout their education. A holistic, non-hierarchical curriculum would likely improve self-confidence, creativity, problem-solving, resilience, coping strategies and communication skills, as well as other areas of personal development. Overall this would likely aid in the improvement of well-being amongst students in the English education system.


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List of Illustrations



Figure 1

The Children's Society (2010). Developing an index of children’s subjective well-being in England. [online] Available at: https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/tcs/research_docs/Developing%20an%20Index%20of%20Children's%20Subjective%20Well-being%20in%20England.pdf [Accessed 8 Nov. 2019].

Figure 2

Office for National Statistics (2019). Long-term trends in UK employment: 1861 to 2018. [online] p.6. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/nationalaccounts/uksectoraccounts/compendium/economicreview/april2019/longtermtrendsinukemployment1861to2018#trends-of-the-employment-rate [Accessed 3 Jan. 2020].

Figure 3

Bleazby, J. (2015). Why some school subjects have a higher status than others: The epistemology of the traditional curriculum hierarchy. Oxford Review of Education, [online] 41(5), pp.671-689. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03054985.2015.1090966 [Accessed 7 Nov. 2019].


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