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“My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” ~ Sir Ken Robinson
I have recently been interviewed by BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester, about a BBC Survey of more than 1 million children across the UK focusing on the changes to the provision of art, music, dance, drama, design and technology and media studies over the last 5 years for children aged 11 – 16 years as I was a Deputy Head and Class Teacher for 25 years.
It is startling and depressing reading.
The most common are cuts to the number of hours pupils are taught creative subjects. Some schools have already cut subjects at GCSE but there have also been cuts to Afterschool Clubs and some schools are asking for parental donations to keep activities thriving. Only a handful of schools said they were increasing provision.
I am concerned by increased pressure on schools to narrowly focus on the data driven curriculum, first imposed on schools by Michael Gove.
More than three quarters of schools responding to the survey said that targets set by the government had had an impact on creatives arts provision in their school, with funding also being a major reason.
With limited funding schools are having to prioritise the subjects that count more towards their ranking in exam results and progress rates – and therefore their Ofsted rating and overall performance, so creativity gets cut first.
As Sir Ken observes, ‘Something strikes you when you move to America and travel around the world: Every education system on Earth has the same hierarchy of subjects. Every one. Doesn’t matter where you go. You’d think it would be otherwise, but it isn’t. At the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities, and at the bottom are the arts.
Everywhere on Earth. And in pretty much every system too, there’s a hierarchy within the arts. Art and music are normally given a higher status in schools than drama and dance. There isn’t an education system on the planet that teaches dance everyday to children the way we teach them mathematics.’
Why Creativity Matters
Young children love music, dancing, painting, playing, and other creative ways to express themselves and make sense of the world around them. However, as if those reasons weren’t enough to include things like art and music in early childhood education, research indicates that the arts, including music education for kids, significantly impacts cognitive development, increases self-esteem, and actively engages everyone in learning—children, parents, and teachers!
From these early experiences children go on to discover drawing, painting, writing, dancing, drama, song writing.
The arts matter because art is meant to move people either on an intellectual or emotional level. Whether it’s a book that stays with you years later, or a performance that moves you spiritually or a song that makes you look at the world around you in a different way. The purpose of art is to cause a reaction and with this purpose it can create a synergy of change; change in attitudes, perceptions, and thoughts. It can unite us in a common experience.
Interestingly Ofsted’s chief inspector of schools Amanda Spielman has already raised concerns about the narrowing of the school curriculum and how creative arts subjects are being affected. In a keynote speech in Oct 2017 she said
“A good curriculum should lead to good results. However, good examination results in and of themselves don’t always mean that the pupil received rich and full knowledge from the curriculum. In the worst cases, teaching to the test, rather than teaching the full curriculum, leaves a pupil with a hollowed out and flimsy understanding.”
Creativity has always been recognised as a way of developing a child’s emotional intelligence, their independence and confidence, their communication skills as well as developing their team working skills. It is a wonderful way to express deep emotions & to just get lost in the moment of something higher than just our every day selves.
In a data driven world creativity doesn’t have a ‘wrong’ answer and that’s important.
Studies have shown that teachers find arts subjects particularly beneficial for two groups: those who struggle with traditional subjects and those who are high achieving.
Less academic students can become defeatist if they feel they can’t achieve & drama, music or art can be the place where they blossom. With more academic students, the arts can bring them out of themselves and be a release from stress, as creativity is relaxing.
I was interested to read that Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, was fond of saying his success was due to his hiring artists and musicians fascinated by technology rather than computer geeks.
As in all of life we need to find a balance.
Of course, kids need to read and write and have all the necessary skills to succeed in the world of work but they also need time to express themselves in writing, dancing, painting, drawing and innovation.
Of course children can attend Clubs out of school but education should be a broad experience and the message that young people receive very early on in school is that singing, dancing, painting, drawing & writing aren’t important and are somehow less…..
We want a whole child with strong mental health and wellbeing and creativity can be that spark that ignites a life long love of learning, self-expression or may just be a wonderful hobby that fills a child with joy.
I whole heartedly agree with Sir Ken ‘We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we’re educating our children.’
What are your thoughts?
Here are five reasons to study creative subjects – Art and Design, Music and Drama from the UK exam board OCR.
- The arts make self starters and develop emotional intelligence
All require the student to set their own agenda from within themselves, rather than follow set topics as in other subjects. They have to make independent decisions all the way, and be self-critical. They also need to be brave in exposing their creations, and accept criticism. Working in teams makes students into good communicators.
- The arts are stretching
Music, art and drama require long hours of hard work and dedication. Students have to pay great attention to detail, to perfect and redo. Putting on a play, exhibition or concert takes strong organisational skills.
- Arts students are highly sought-after by employers
Many employers now actively seek those who have studied the arts. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, was fond of saying his success was due to his hiring artists and musicians fascinated by technology rather than computer geeks. Top talent management agency, The Curve Group specialising in financial and business services, concurs: “Employees with an arts degree have developed more quickly in their roles from the start. They have discipline, confidence and can accept criticism.”
- Arts for wellbeing
The arts develop the broader dimensions of the human being – mind, body and soul. The arts can express the inexpressible and make sense of things that otherwise do not seem to. This can be very fulfilling and helps us function as human beings – which can only be good for society as a whole.
- Arts ‘reach the students other subjects can’t reach’
Teachers find arts subjects particularly beneficial for two groups: those who struggle with traditional subjects and those who are high achieving. Less academic students can become defeatist if they feel they can’t achieve: drama, music or art can be the place they blossom. With studious students, the arts can bring them out of themselves and be a release.