Young children are missing out on drama, music and arts activities after years of cuts

Labour says ministers should be "ashamed" at the impact of their policies

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Indy Politics

There has been a sharp fall in the number of children taking part in extra-curricular cultural activities like art, dance, music, and drama in the five years since David Cameron came to power, new figures show.

An analysis by the Labour party found young children between five and ten years old are increasingly missing out after years of deep cuts to the Arts Council and local authorities who have helped fund such activities in the past.

In 2010 around half of young children were taking part in activities like putting on a play or learning to play a musical instrument, with the number now having now fallen to 30 per cent after five years of the Coalition.

Arts Council England has had its government grant cut by 36 per cent since 2010 and is likely to face further squeezes in the years to come because of cultural spending’s unprotected status.

Michael Dugher, Labour’s shadow culture secretary, said ministers should be “ashamed” and that the UK would pay the price for the cuts in the future.

“The Government’s approach to the arts and culture is completely counterproductive.  Not only do they enrich our society and create great opportunities for people, they also make a massive contribution to our economy,” he said.

“Overall, the arts and culture sector more than pays its way, with the Treasury getting five pounds back for every pound of public funding going to the Arts Council’s national portfolio organisations.

“Ministers should be ashamed that on their watch, fewer and fewer young children are able to take part in key cultural activities.  Rather than planning yet further massive cuts, the Government should be working to open up culture and the arts to everyone, particularly young children.”    

Dance activities have been hit particularly hard, with the participation rate having fallen from 45.1 per cent in 2009/2010 to 27.4 per cent in 2014/15. 

Music activities have fallen from 55.4 per cent to 36.6 per cent over the same period, while drama has gone from 49.1 per cent in 2009/2010 to 32.3 per cent. Arts and crafts are down from 81.6 per cent to 76.6 per cent.

Weeks after May’s general election the new head of England’s arts council Darren Henley called on the Government to stop making cuts to the arts, which he said made a difference “educationally, socially, and economically”.

“At the Arts Council, we will make the best possible case to ensure government funding for the arts, for museums, and for libraries - which has already been cut so much since 2010,” he said in a speech in Hull.

In 2013 there were rumours that Mr Osborne could abolish the Department for Culture, Media and Sport entirely – an idea that did not in fact go ahead. The Chancellor is currently planning his Autumn Statement, which will be announced later this month.

A DCMS spokesperson highlighted figures that showed that a broader age range was taking part in “the arts” in general. 

"In the last five years Government has invested over £460 million in music and cultural education programmes to help all children experience the arts regardless of their background or where they go to school,” the spokesperson said. 

“Recent figures also show 98% of 5-15 year olds took part in the arts last year with most doing so regularly.”