Cuts to arts will have big impact, school councils say

The Federation of School Councils is concerned that cuts to arts programs will affect the overall quality of education this school year.
Nathan Whalen, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of School Councils, says fewer supports for arts programs in schools will stunt overall student development. (CBC)

The province's federation of school councils is concerned that cuts to arts programs will affect the overall quality of education this school year.

Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of School Councils president Nathan Whalen said fewer resources mean the focus will instead be on the "prescribed curriculum," including math, science and other courses.

But he said the focus should be on the overall development of each student.

"I think that one of our main mandates as the federation of school councils is really to work with school councils and other educational partners to improve student achievement. So when you look at, 'what does student achievement really mean,' it actually means developing the whole student and making sure the whole student is successful," Whalen said.

"We need to work on making sure that people are successful and understand and know how to try music programs and art programs, physical education and what have you, because those are things that really help define the whole people."

Whalen said many people he's spoken to — including students, parents and teachers — are apprehensive about what the cuts will mean.

"They firmly believe that there is going to be a significant impact to the quality of education this year and it's going to be a less quality of education they're receiving this year than they did last year," he said.

"We're also hearing that there's going to be just, at the end of the day, bottom-line impact to students at the classroom level because even though we're not taking away direct regular classroom teachers, what we are taking away is … a lot of the supports around those classroom teachers. So we are going to see an impact on students here."

In response to a CBC inquiry about the federation's concerns, Education Minister Clyde Jackman's office sent an emailed response.

"The Intermediate Curriculum (7-9) in Newfoundland and Labrador includes the specialty areas of physical education, art, music, technology and core French among the prescribed core curriculum," the note said.

"As part of this year's budget decisions, there was a change in the intermediate specialty allocation from 1:125 to 1:150. This resulted in a total reduction province-wide of 15 units. For comparison purposes, the specialty allocation for Grades K-6 and 10-12 is 1:175."