The state of the arts: the challenge for the arts in Primary education in Scotland - a symposium

Angela Japp, Lio Moscardini, Anna Robb, Eilidh Slattery, William Barlow, Nikki Doig, Kerry Chappell

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The Expressive Arts have been long established in curricula guidelines in Scotland, with learners able to enjoy the breadth and depth of a range of Expressive Arts learning activities. At a time when education systems are looking to refresh learning and teaching post-Covid, there is a need to take stock and consider the role of the arts in the education of children and young people, but also what are the challenges in fulfilling this role?

This symposium explores the current ‘state of the arts’ in the Primary school in Scotland. It will present findings from three interlinked research projects (Art, Dance and Music) which each explored two specific aims: primary teachers’ knowledge and confidence relating to teaching the arts in their classrooms; and, the content of arts education in primary-focused Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programmes.

Each paper will present key findings based on these aims, providing insight into the current ‘state’ and the challenges for teachers in ensuring that children have access to quality expressive arts learning experiences through Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). It is these challenges and, most importantly, the ways to overcome and meaningfully address them as an education system, that we are keen to explore through discussion with delegates.

Paper 1: Art
Anna Robb
Research on art and design education in primary schools in the United Kingdom is an active and growing field. This paper presents the view from Scotland and draws upon a 2022 study which explored teachers’ experiences and associated knowledge and beliefs about art and design education in primary classrooms. Data were gathered in the form of an online survey, with 110 primary teachers responding. Key findings indicated that most respondents believed that teaching art in primary schools was the responsibility of the classroom teacher. They also indicated that while confidence levels to teach single art lessons were relatively high, these levels began to dip once the focus was on planning and delivering a programme of work in art and design. This paper will discuss these findings in more depth, presenting a current picture of art and design teaching in primary schools.

Paper 2: Dance
Eilidh Slattery
Dance education is a valuable yet often neglected area of the curriculum. Drawing on the analysis of data from over 200 respondents, this paper will discuss the relationship between primary teachers’ prior experience and/or qualifications in dance, their beliefs regarding the importance of dance within education, and teacher confidence to deliver dance as part of the curriculum. This paper will also investigate some key issues identified in the data, including the overall inequity and disparity of experience in terms of dance education throughout a teacher’s own learning experiences in school, and in their developmental journey to becoming a teacher.

Paper 3: Music
Lio Moscardini and Angela Jaap
Music is a much-valued component of arts education in Scotland, with a presence in various curricula since at least the 1900s. Yet while Music continues to be valued by practitioners there is an ongoing and significant concern relating to the regularity and content of music teaching in the primary classroom. This paper will share the findings of data gathered from over 400 Primary teachers and discuss some of the key issues which emerged including primary teachers’ knowledge and beliefs about music education; primary teachers’ confidence in and preparedness for teaching music; primary teachers’ accounts of practice relating to music education in the classroom; accessibility to music education for all children.

Moscardini, L., Jaap, A., Rae, A., and Wilson, A. (2021) Music Education in Primary Schools in Scotland. Research Report submitted to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
Slattery, E. and Rae, A. (2022) Dance Education in Primary Schools in Scotland. Research Report submitted to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
Creative Approaches - (Arts Based & Creativities & Nature, Outdoor Learning and Play)

Second Theme
Teacher Education and Development
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2023
EventBERA Annual Conference 2023 - Aston University, Birmingham
Duration: 12 Sept 202314 Sept 2023 (Link to conference website )


ConferenceBERA Annual Conference 2023
Internet address


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