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Students urged to help disadvantaged pupils to ‘engage with and benefit from’ arts and humanities at degree level

Arts Emergency Manchester - a student-led project which aims to dispel myths around arts degrees - praised for 'changing course of young people's minds'

Jennifer Sterne
Friday 11 December 2015 18:50

The number of students who take arts subjects at GCSE level and beyond is declining and, according to The Cultural Learning Alliance, there are 13 per cent less students entering into arts GCSEs when compared with five years ago.

In response to the statistics, Arts Emergency Manchester - the Manchester student branch of Arts Emergency which works to help students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds gain places on arts/humanities degrees - is now working to create an alternative to the ‘old boy’s’ network in creative industries.

On its website, Arts Emergency says: “Learning to read poetry or philosophy or how to understand a painting or film are not elite pursuits, but now rising tuition fees and the withdrawal of public funding for the teaching of arts and humanities at university means they risk becoming so.”

Arts Emergency Manchester works with Year 9 students before they pick their GCSEs and delivers workshops on a variety of arts and social science subjects, from sociology to art history.

The student-led project aims to dispel myths and negative images about university and arts and social science degrees held by students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The project is in its second year after a successful first year of delivering workshops, with 100 per cent of the 24 students involved in the workshops agreeing their questions about university were answered.

Another 71 per cent strongly agreed the workshops had introduced them to subjects they hadn’t previously known about.

Following on from the success of the project in Manchester, Arts Emergency wants to take the project national to encourage students from across the country to set up their own schemes.

Co-founder Neil Griffiths described why the project needs to go national, and said: “The diverse, dissenting, creative, and fearless bright young minds we should cherish are under attack - and a generation of 18-year-olds are now vexed, deterred, excluded, and priced out of studying [art and humanities] subjects, without even considering them.

“Arts Emergency is fast becoming a national grassroots movement - and undergraduates everywhere must stand up in solidarity with those hoping to follow in their footsteps.”

Highlighting how the Manchester branch of the charity has changed the course of young people's minds, he added: “They are proving the erosion of access, the reversal of social mobility, the entrenchment of privilege, and the silencing of diverse voices can - and will - be halted.

We are working to put together guides so students in other parts of the country can organise, can get out into disadvantaged state schools, and engage those most able to benefit from an education in the arts and humanities.”

Twitter: @JennySterne

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