Writer Ali Smith has said the decrease in contact with the arts in state schools, revealed in the Warwick Commission's report yesterday (18th February), is "deeply distressing" and the sign of an education system "going backwards".
The report expressed concern that "publicly funded arts, culture and heritage, supported by tax and lottery revenues, are predominantly accessed by an unnecessarily narrow social, economic, ethnic and educated demographic that is not fully representative of the UK’s population”, and said creativity and the arts were being squeezed out of schools.
Smith, speaking as guest director of the Brighton festival, said: "Introduction and engagement with the arts begins with education. That's the place where young people either feel included or excluded and if we are cutting back arts coverage and education in our schools, especially at such an early level when young people are so full of possibility and pliability, then where and how are they going to pursue it later if they feel if was never for them in the first place?"
Smith's latest novel How to Be Both (Hamish Hamilton) won the Goldsmiths Prize and Costa Novel Award, and she was awarded the CBE in the New Year's Honours list. But she said school had played a fundamental role in encouraging her to "embrace the arts vibrantly and freely", coming from a working-class background. "I find it deeply distressing that around a third of kids compared to five years ago now have no contact with the arts. It is causing damage at every level and needs to be addressed," she said.