Schools must teach art, for all our sakes

The Guardian – The teaching of art in schools is not a luxury argues Meirion Bowen, while Richard Turner warns that sidelining arts education just puts students on the road to redundancy

Like many people, I view the exclusion of arts subjects from the new English baccalaureate (Report, 9 May) as a major step backwards in our education system. In my first 18 years, living outside Swansea, access to musical training was limited. A violinist gave optional lessons in my grammar school. In charge of the local youth orchestra, the county music adviser couldn’t read a score and conducted from a violin part, leaving me, at the piano, to hold the ensemble together. Succeeding decades saw all that replaced by widespread professional training in music for youngsters, so that our youth orchestras became the envy of the world and numerous star soloists and composers appeared.

The arts are an essential basis for the development of a civilised society. After graduating in music from university, I taught music in art schools and a polytechnic, under the umbrella of so-called “liberal studies”. This gave students a special new dimension to their lives: a few opted for careers in music. Far from being cut, the arts should be more extensively taught, with young people encouraged to cultivate them. Their lives and relationships will be greatly enriched as a result.
Meirion Bowen

George Monbiot (Opinion, 15 February 2017) made the point that those seeking jobs in future must be as unlike machines as possible: creative, critical and socially skilled, and that teaching children the skills required by robots can only lead to redundancy. Most of the subjects covered by Ebacc (maths, the sciences, geography or history and languages) are those in which computers increasingly excel. We need a complete review of educational policy, as the artists said in their letter (9 May).
Dr Richard Turner
Beverley, East Yorkshire