The Secretary of State for Education and Science and I support the place of the arts in education. The national curriculum ensures this. As I announced in the House on 23 May, my right hon. Friend and I are funding research into good practice to demonstrate the range of educational opportunities available in the contemporary arts, museums and galleries, and public libraries.
Will my right hon. Friend note that it has taken this Conservative Government to make art and music a compulsory part of the school curriculum for all children, and that the previous philistinic Labour Governments never did anything but talk about it? Where do art and education come together specifically for the benefit of London children?
It is, of course, a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who should be given credit for ensuring that for the first time music is a compulsory subject in school. The new curriculum makes it possible to include almost every facet of art in one form or another and I hope that teachers will take advantage of that. In regard to my hon. Friend's second question, there are a number of examples of good practice in London. The national maritime museum has an excellent scheme for children through the Armada exhibition; the royal opera house has workshops and works with schools, as does the English National Opera, and the London Mozart Players have an excellent education scheme in Croydon.
The Minister will recall his answer to me which showed that an increasing number of museums are beginning to charge for school parties. Will the Minister condemn that as bad practice? Will he confirm that by charging for school parties the heritage and the important educational value of items in those museums are no longer accessible to many school children?
The hon. Gentleman is referring to the new guidelines on school activities within school hours. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science has already pointed out that parents can make voluntary contributions. However, I have undertaken with my right hon. Friend carefully to monitor the progress on this because we are anxious to ensure that the access of schools to important centres of art and to museums is not only maintained, but strengthened.
Is the Minister aware that the number of school visits to theatres, dance performances, museums and concerts has fallen dramatically in recent weeks as a direct result of Government changes in funding school visits through the Education Reform Act? Is he aware that the national theatre's excellent production of Adrian Mitchell's play "The Pied Piper" had to cancel a week's performances because of Government changes making it extremely difficult for schools to make out-of-school visits? How is that helping arts companies or arts education in schools? Is that good practice?
As I said earlier, I have undertaken to monitor progress and to ensure that there is no setback in terms of the number of schools visiting arts institutions. There is no overwhelming evidence to suggest that what the hon. Gentleman says is right. In one or two examples, much of the misunderstanding has been about the guidelines. Those guidelines are clear. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science has set out what schools can do to ensure that they maintain contact with arts organisations.