New report raises concerns about equity in arts education
Schools with lower parental education and income less likely to have access to learning opportunities in the arts
For immediate release
Toronto (April 3, 2018) – New data from People for Education show that, despite the widely recognized importance of arts education, equitable access to arts programs and resources is an ongoing challenge for Ontario’s schools. Students in small and rural schools, in schools with higher levels of poverty, and in schools with lower levels of parental education are less likely to have access to learning opportunities in the arts.
The report on the arts in schools – based on survey results from more than 1200 Ontario elementary and secondary schools – shows significant differences in school arts budgets, which has an impact on students’ access to artistic experiences. This year, 46% of elementary schools have a specialist music teacher, either full- or part-time. While this is up from 41% last year, it is still well below the 58% of schools reporting music teachers in 1998.
Arts Budgets: Size matters
The size of a school’s arts budget can have an impact on access to learning opportunities in the arts. According to the report, arts budgets range from less than $500 to $100,000. Students in elementary schools with budgets over $5000 are more likely to have the opportunity to see live performances, display their art, participate in choir or band, learn an instrument, or work with an artist.
Using data from EQAO surveys, the researchers found that grade three and six students from schools with lower arts budgets were more likely to say they “never” participate in art, music, or drama activities outside of the school day. There is also a clear link between the amounts that schools fundraise and the size of their arts budgets. Elementary and secondary schools that fundraise for the arts are much more likely to report arts budgets of $5000 or more.
Demographic factors and access to the arts
People for Education used statistical data to examine the impact of demographics on students’ access to the arts. Schools with higher rates of poverty raise less money per school, less money per student, and less money specifically for the arts, as compared to schools with lower rates of poverty. As a result, students in low-income schools have less access to arts enrichment activities.
In addition, elementary schools with higher proportions of parents with university degrees are ten times more likely to have an arts budget of $5000 or more. These schools are also twice as likely to have a music teacher, and three times as likely to have a full-time music teacher, compared to those with lower levels of parental education. These differences hold even when the data is controlled for region (urban vs. rural) and school size; and the pattern extends beyond music to other arts specialists.
The urban-rural divide
“Our school is a small country school with only 8 classrooms. Our teaching staff allotment doesn’t afford us the opportunity to have specialist teachers.” Elementary school, Lambton-Kent DSB
Schools in rural areas face more challenges than their urban counterparts in providing arts education. This year’s survey results show:
- Urban elementary schools are three times more likely than rural schools to have a budget of $5000 or more.
- While 37% of elementary schools in urban areas report that they do not have specialized arts programming space, this rises to 53% of rural schools.
- Urban schools are more likely to have specialist arts teachers, and those teachers are more likely to have advanced qualifications.
Equity and the arts
According to Christine Corso, Manager of People for Education’s Annual Report on Ontario’s Publicly Funded Schools, the inequities revealed in the survey results raise major concerns.
“Given the significant role that arts education plays in supporting the development of foundational skills, all of Ontario’s students should have equitable access to arts resources and programs,” says Corso. “But our results show that parental income and education, fundraising, and geography all have an impact on arts budgets, access to enrichment and even access to specialist teachers. It is time to ensure that all schools have appropriate arts budgets.”