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This is a guest blog from London based RSA Fellow Dr Marion Long. Marion is the managing director of Rhythm for Reading and has a background as a professional performing musician and educational researcher.

Music Bridges, an arts-education project funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation aims to help schools in enabling them to better support adolescents across primary-secondary transition. The majority of young people interviewed for the project said that they had had no access to musical education during their final year at primary school. Preparing learners for attainment tests as a high stakes activity, chimes eerily with the persistent undervaluing of the arts in the Coalition Government’s education reforms.

Science moves step by step, but the arts elevate and expand thinking in leaps and bounds. Therefore, the importance of a broad and balanced curriculum in equipping young people for the various challenges facing the 21st century cannot be overstated and Arts Council England’s Althea Efunshile in response to Nicky Morgan’s comments speech to the Launch of your Life campaign, said this:

“To enable children and young people to have a broad education and move the conversation along we need to have a STEAM led agenda that fully incorporates the arts into STEM subjects.”

Wonderful vibrant work is being done across the arts at National and Regional levels. Many schools take advantage of outreach events, workshops and projects offered by Britain’s greatest arts organisations. Stunning evidence-based evaluation reports on this work are published year on year. This ‘Outside-in’ model of the arts in schools can be a very powerful catalyst for widening and deepening engagement with the arts, particularly in introducing learners and educators to new ways of seeing and experiencing the world.

Profoundly transformative arts work is also underway within enlightened schools, where the ‘Inside-out’ model of arts provision is maintained. In these schools, learners are constantly developing their abilities as painters, model-makers, singers, dancers, actors through a blend of traditional and digital formats week on week. Influenced by the expertise of specialist practitioners who know what is required for full and meaningful participation in the creative industries, learners are immersed in the sustainable development of skills, discernment, criticality, practical knowledge and mentoring.

RSA Fellows are no doubt actively driving these excellent practices and initiatives forward in many different ways – perhaps as pioneers of innovative approaches or by leading Britain’s vibrant and distinctive communities of arts practices. However, it is when these overlap, that exciting synergies spring up and really start to flourish.

Marion is interested in identifying synergy with others looking at the role of the arts in primary education. If you would like to be involved in taking this conversation further and exploring some of the issues raised in this blog then please contact Marion at


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