Arts and Funding Cuts: Part 1

Perhaps the most important question for this blog series is how do we know the arts are losing funding, and moreover, why are they? 

In January 2018, Arts Council England announced a restructuring of their grants system, and an overall cut of £156Million to the 2018-22 budget. Explaining a number of budget reassessments, they state that the £156Million cut was due to a downturn in Lottery sales, with a national collapse leading to £41Million income deficit in 2016, and the most recent figures from 2017 revealing a further 4.7% fall in returns; making an additional £5Million shortfall inevitable. This is irrefutable proof that the Arts are losing funding in key areas, but this is hardly the last of it.

A 2015 article tracked the uptick in private Artistic tuition, citing a £4 p/hour increase in music tuition in Pembrokeshire, and a drop in school based participation. Building on this, the same article quotes the Warwick Commission’s report, which found only 8% of the population are “culturally active”. Vikki Heywood said, about the same report, that it was up to “the government and the cultural and creative industries to take a united and coherent approach that guarantees equal access for everyone to a rich cultural education.” And indeed with creative industries bringing in £76.9Billion a year in 2015, and upwards since, there remains a financial incentive for the government to maintain funding in key developmental areas.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. A number of reports from this year show an overall squeeze in schools Arts funding, with over 90% of the 1,200 participating secondary schools (that’s over 40% of secondary schools in the country) admitting to cutting their Creative Arts programmes. Three in 10 schools in this report reduced timetabled hours for the Creative Arts, four in 10 had reduced funding, and one in 10 stated they relied on parental donations to keep their Arts programmes up and running. These reports come on the back of Education Policy Institute research showing only 53.5% of children took an arts subject GCSE in 2016, a trend which is feared to continue. Cuts to school funding, as with so many other things can be tracked back to government austerity, despite then-Chancellor George Osborne promising to protect our schools in 2010 (when austerity budgets where introduced) schools have faced budget cut backs across the board, with academisation doing little to change that. 

Cutting Arts funding at secondary level has a knock on effect in higher education, with UCAS reporting a 16% drop in Arts applicants this year, and some sources suggesting a particular cut back in English Literature candidates. This has two major consequences; the first is a lack of qualified applicants for positions in creative industries, from design to publishing. The second is the continuation of the teacher shortage; with cash incentives already in place to encourage Maths and STEM students to take a PGCE it may be only a matter of time before the same is necessary in English.

By Esmé Bonner