An analysis of the number of young people taking parts in after-school arts activities has been published by the Labour Party.
Shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman said the report shows the government's policies have led to a decline in the uptake of such pursuits and pledged to reverse this trend if Labour wins the next election.
According to the party's analysis, there are now a third fewer primary school children taking part in arts activities after school compared with before the last election, and there is a widening gap between white children and those from ethnic minorities.
The 'Taking Part' survey from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport reveals that the proportion of all primary school children participating in music activities fell from 55 per cent in 2009-10 to 36 per cent in 2012-13. Similar declines were witnessed in those taking part in theatre and drama activities and dance activities.
Particularly worrying is the decline in the number of black and ethnic minority youngsters taking part in these activities, the Labour Party says.
Steeper falls were recorded in the amount of such children participating in music, theatre and drama and dance activities, when compared with those from a white background.
According to Labour, the gap in uptake has risen since the coalition government came to power, trebling with respect to dance and nearly quadrupling among arts and crafts activities.
Ms Harman blamed the government and former education secretary Michael Gove for the declines, accusing him of "devaluing creativity" in schools and local arts organisations.
She said Labour would support the arts by requiring Ofsted to check that cultural opportunities are available for all students, ensuring arts organisations funded by the Arts Council extend opportunities to young people and implementing plans for after-school clubs.
However, the Department for Education rejected the criticism. "We are determined to help every child develop their creativity," a spokesman said, pointing out that £340 million has been invested in music and cultural education.
"In the last month alone we have cut red tape that restricted after-school drama performances and announced an £18m funding boost for music education," he added.
"The extra funding will mean thousands more disadvantaged pupils will have access to instruments."
Posted by Charlotte Michaels