A report made public by the UK charity Art Fund today has shone new light on the way socio-economic background and location are impacting on pupils’ access to museums.
The research, which was undertaken by analytics group YouGov, looked at data relating to 1,000 children aged 6-15 years. It found that 52% of less privileged pupils have visited a museum in the past year, compared with 70% of those with more advantaged upbringings. These socio-economic categories were defined as between ABC1 and C2DE, grades within the generic National Readership Survey (NRS) scale that are defined by the occupation of a household’s chief earner. ABC1 and C2DE are often used to refer to middle and working class respectively.
Another factor affecting access is geographical location, with pupils from London far more likely to have visited a museum in the past 12 months than those in other regions. The report found that 70% of pupils in the capital had attended over this time compared with 60% in northern England or Scotland and 57% in the Midlands and Wales.
Those behind the study emphasise the importance of schools in getting pupils through museum doors, but separate data conducted by Art Fund suggests this window for access is narrowing. Of 9,000 teachers surveyed, 36% reported they are taking pupils to these institutions less often than before the Covid-19 pandemic.
To try to counter this decline—and grow the connection between schools and cultural destinations—Art Fund have released a Teacher Art Pass, which offers educators reduced cost, and often free, access to museums, historical houses and more across the UK. Early responses have been positive: following a trial involving 1,000 teachers, 85% said that the pass had benefited their teaching practice, with the idea being that this will encourage a growing number of visits with pupils, too.
Jenny Waldman, the director of Art Fund, said in a statement: “Our research has revealed real disparity in pupils’ access to museums across the country. Children’s ability to enjoy museums, galleries and historical places shouldn’t be determined by their socio-economic status or geographical location.”
She adds: “We want to support teachers, who play such a vital role in pupils’ lives, and we know that visiting museums can also help improve their own wellbeing. By connecting more teachers with museums and galleries, we can boost all children’s access to cultural experiences, inspiring teachers and their pupils and improving education outcomes for all.”
Adam Creen, the head of maths at a secondary school in Surrey, UK, meanwhile said: “I got my Teacher Art Pass around four months ago and have since visited a wide range of museums and galleries across the country. These trips have been a great reminder of the benefits of cultural spaces not just for my wellbeing, but also as a source of inspiration.
“I’ve found admiring art created using mathematical patterns such as [work by the Italian mathematician] Fibonacci or discovering historical figures that have used the art of maths to create some of the world’s most ground-breaking inventions really beneficial. These works of art and objects help bring to life how maths is used in the real world helping to engage pupils in the value of mathematical skills.”