Freelands Foundation Partnership

A landmark research commission into racial inequality in art education


Monday 15th March 2021


Freelands Foundation and Runnymede Trust announce a ground-breaking partnership to deliver the first major research commission into access to the visual arts for Black, Asian and ethnically diverse students in the UK. The report will be published in Autumn 2022, detailing how and why young people from non-white backgrounds are excluded from art education, alongside proposing practical recommendations to address the issue.


Drawing Act II: Pattern Performance Parade, with Alexis Teplin, 2020. Courtesy Drawing Room London


Runnymede will deliver a two-year research programme that spans from early engagement with art in schools to the makeup of the professional sector. In 2017, the DfE recorded that children in UK schools (of whom 31% were “minority ethnic”) were introduced to visual art by teachers who were 94% white.

The initiative aims to catalyse long-term structural change in a sector where, despite the success of individual artists such as Sonia Boyce, Lubaina Himid, Steve McQueen and Chris Ofili, only 2.7% of the workforce are from a Black, Asian or ethnically diverse background.

The commission will consider the importance of both opportunity and aspiration in art education, asking whether young people in the UK see their diversity reflected in the art industry and how this shapes their engagement with visual culture. A sector-wide review published in Autumn 2021 will map the representation of Black, Asian and ethnically diverse artists, curators and organisational leadership.

Following this, an in-depth investigation into art education in secondary schools will gather new data around racial inequalities amongst students and teachers and within the curriculum. The commission will measure and analyse access to art education across different ethnic groups, with an intersectional approach to the research.

Concurrently, a large-scale consultation with art teachers, academic leaders, exam boards, students, artists and cultural organisations across the country will identify the challenges and blocks for non-white students.

The research will focus in particular on Key Stages 3 & 4 (11-16 years), to capture the transition from compulsory to elective art education. Existing information points to the importance of early engagement at secondary school level, as by ‘A’ level Black and Asian students select Art courses at less than half the rate of their white counterparts.

The final report will include a clear set of guidelines, recommendations and plans for teaching and training resources, with the aim to empower arts and education organisations to enact long-term structural changes towards greater inclusion.


ROCK PAPER SCISSORS After School Club, with Jake Garfield, 2020. Courtesy Drawing Room London


Runnymede Trust's 2020 report into Race and Racism in Secondary Schools demonstrated the effect on Black, Asian and ethnically diverse students of their dramatic underrepresentation by 8% of teachers (across all subjects) and 3% of headteachers from “Black and minority ethnic” backgrounds.

Our CEO, Dr Halima Begum:

Our school students are a blank canvas. It is imperative they are able to see and appreciate diversity in art. With representation comes inspiration, and I have no doubt that this project, led by Freelands Foundation and Runnymede Trust, will lend important data and evidence to the thus-far sparse study of equity and inclusion in the UK art sector. Ultimately we believe that the impact of this research will resonate beyond a single generation and provide the foundation for developments in the teaching of art in our nation’s schools, and in turn help to inspire new generations of children who value, appreciate, and indeed fall in love with art in all its forms.

Elisabeth Murdoch, Founder and Chair of Freelands Foundation said:

We know that Black, Asian and ethnically diverse students face significant obstacles to studying art at every stage of their educational journey, not least because of a striking lack of representation in the curriculum and in art educators. This has the ripple effect on the lack of representation throughout the arts sector: from entry level, technical, curatorial, to leadership, at which point only 2% of managers in visual arts organisations identify as “BME”.

Whilst we have seen many successful Black, Asian and ethnically diverse British artists; this does not mean that we are not compelled to remove the barriers they faced for the next generation of students. Working with the Runnymede Trust, we will look at the ecosystem of art education as a whole to identify bold solutions that we believe will drive real change across the sector, creating greater opportunities for Black and ethnically diverse students to shape and enrich the visual art landscape of tomorrow.


Drawing Act II: Pattern Performance Parade, with Alexis Teplin, 2020. Courtesy Drawing Room London



‘Black, Asian and ethnically diverse’ is used here to refer to people of Black, Asian or other minoritised ethnicities in the UK. ‘Non-white’ is used to highlight collective exclusion. In the research and publications, Runnymede Trust will be specific and accurate about the range of ethnic and cultural nuance that exists in various diasporas in this country.

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