'Schools produce philistine nation'

NAHT conference: Sport, music, and drama being squeezed out
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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT'S crusade to raise standards in the three Rs is threatening to produce a generation of "literate and numerate but unfit philistines" a headteachers' leader said yesterday.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the increasing emphasis on the basic skills of literacy and numeracy in schools was squeezing out sport, art, music and drama. He said: "There is a grave danger that if we do not get the balance right we will damage a generation of children."

Primary schools have been told to introduce a daily maths hour to set alongside the literacy hour from September. But heads fear detailed guidelines on teaching basic skills leave little time to give children a rounded education.

Mr Hart told the association's annual conference in Cardiff: "The national curriculum review in no way releases schools from the danger of a squeeze caused by the combined pressure of a focus on the basics and the expectation that teachers can remedy all the ills of an increasingly sick society.

"The result must not lead to schools being forced to produce literate and numerate but unfit philistines. There has to be room for a broad and balanced curriculum, otherwise children will leave school with little or no educational experience beyond the purely academic.

"It is time that Government and its advisory quangos understood that success in sport and the arts leads to increased self-confidence, enhanced self-esteem and creativity, which in turn lifts pupils' overall standards." Mr Hart said he was holding talks with education officials and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to find ways of providing better facilities for sport and art in schools.

A survey carried out by the association earlier this year found that 94 per cent of primary schools had no gym, 92 per cent had no swimming pool, and 97 per cent had no tennis courts. About 25 per cent also had no access to a swimming pool and 75 per cent said it was difficult to field sports teams at the weekends.

A separate survey of drama in secondary schools found that 20 per cent did not offer the subject at GCSE and 25 per cent did not offer drama lessons earlier in pupils' school careers.

Mr Hart's comments come after the Government's creativity taskforce, whose members include the television comedy couple Dawn French and Lenny Henry, called for an expansion of art and creative education to help to raise standards.

The Government was criticised by leading figures from the arts last year when it allowed schools to spend less time on subjects such as art, music and PE.