Ireland is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which states that
“Member governments shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.”
Inequality of access is the major issue in relation to arts provision for Irish children and young people, affecting the quality of their education and their social inclusion. It is one of the dimensions under which disadvantage and poverty is demonstrated. Growing Up in Ireland states that by age 9, only 47% of children and young people are participating in recreational activities after school. Participation strongly relates at that point to maternal education and family income. This means that a child’s access to the arts will be dependent on not only their privilege, but the privilege their parents experienced growing up.
The absence of a strategic approach to provision and planning and the lack of adequate funding means that a young person’s access to the arts can often be determined by whether or not they are lucky enough to be in an area in which there is strong local provision, and, if not, whether they can access transport or their parents can pay for alternative provision instead. In a country internationally renowned for the quality of its contribution to world culture, it is not acceptable that only children and young people in families with the financial means have access to, among other things, music, drama, dancing, drawing and literature. While data is not available on the amount of time the average Irish child spends in non-formal arts activities, The OECD benchmarks Ireland as 11th in Europe in terms of percentage compulsory tuition time devoted to the arts and this figure has not grown since 2001. Importantly, this time does not include time spent with peers and with family in arts activities outside of formal education. We are calling on the next Government to develop and implement an action plan which would guarantee each child growing up in Ireland equality of access to the arts and will tackle economic, geographical and social barriers to participation (e.g., where children and young people live, their family environment, cost, transport, and the availability of local cultural infrastructure etc.).
In January 2013, the Government launched the Arts in Education Charter. This agreement places new responsibilities on Government Departments, agencies, cultural institutions and arts organisations to provide and promote arts education to children and young people both in formal and non-formal education. It is important that the next Government commit to fully implement this. While welcoming the document, NYCI believes it needs to take into account the role of the youth arts sector in supporting the participation of young people in the arts in out of school settings. In this context it is important that Government develop and expand the Charter to incorporate non-formal education and youth arts in order to deliver on a recommendation in the Charter. This stated that “policy-makers and education providers, nationally and locally, should understand the wide range of practice encompassed within the generic term “education” and ensure that investment in arts-in-education practice is not achieved at the expense of growing other complementary arts and education practices in formal, non-formal and informal settings“. Therefore we are calling on the Government to further develop and expand the Charter to include non-formal education and youth arts in line with the recommendation in the document.
Youth Arts Showcase to promote youth arts practice among politicians and policy makers. Full details here http://www.youtharts.ie/content/youth-arts-showcase-2014
Youth Arts Factsheet, 2014
NYCI Submission to Culture 2025
Arts in Education Charter, 2012
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