Arts Matters

Nov 21, 2018

RIO consultant and former headteacher Gary Futcher has heard all the debates about arts education but now feels it’s time for action.

Radio 4’s Front Row, the weekday live magazine programme on the worlds of arts, literature, film, media last week hosted a live debate on arts education which is well worth a listen on the fab new BBC Sounds. The wide-ranging discussion touched on the impact of the government’s EBacc measure, the decline in the uptake of arts subjects at GCSE and the pressures of funding as well as the positive benefits of the arts on mental health, social mobility, young people’s place in the future economy – and the joy of them for their own sake.

The above are all things I have recently written about but, until now, I’ve been conscious of avoiding coming over all ‘sales pitch’. However, the well-meaning, well-rehearsed debate in the programme made me realise that, actually, something has to change. I think the new Ofsted inspection framework from September 2019, with its mooted greater focus on curriculum and the quality of education, is a start. I also think the Chief Inspector’s words about ‘narrowing’ and its negative impact are especially important. What they signal is that broad and balanced is back on the agenda. For those of us who value the place of the arts in education I believe that provides a valuable opening as ‘curriculum review’ becomes the new thing. We need, though, to be ready to offer schools and education settings who have become too narrow something to help them broaden once more.

For me, that’s Artsmark, the creative quality standard for schools accredited by Arts Council England.

At RIO we know the arts matter and are passionate about their place in a broad and balanced education. We work daily with schools and teachers to develop arts provision, shape lasting relationships between schools and arts organisations, and create exciting ways to embrace the power of creativity. And Artsmark is a key feature of that work. Recently redesigned it is no longer the data collection, badge awarding beast many teachers will have known but a genuine streamlined school development tool that helps education settings look at their provision against a nationally recognised standard and then plan for and embark on a journey of development.

We know it works because we see it in practice. But rather than take our word for it, check out this video from Great Torrington School, a secondary school in north Devon. Great Torrington are just one of over 70 awarded – and over 260 participating – Artsmark education settings to date across the south west:

Now, by this stage, any self-respecting Headteacher, Chief Exec or Business Manager will be thinking one thing: all very lovely, but what does it cost? It’s £500 (£250 for a small school). But taken over a four-year window (2 years’ development journey; two years awarded) that’s £125 a year for something that will support school improvement, shape provision and also comes with training and on-going support. Some shiny education experts cost more than that for five minutes!

If you believe arts education matters, if you appreciate the value of a genuinely broad and balanced experience for young people, if you’re in a school and want to begin curriculum review ahead of the new Ofsted inspection framework, then Artsmark is for you.  You can register today at or contact for more information.

For primary focused video Artsmark stories check out:
Oldway Primary, Torbay
Horfield Primary, Bristol