The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

Arts Education In Schools

Cutting Back On Creativity

By Nathan Guy
Actor, Drama Coach and Drama Lead and Creative Support Teacher at Griffin Schools Trust

Do we have time for creativity in schools? If not, we should make time. Arts education should not be for the privileged few but thrown like confetti and woven into the learning process of each and every subject area. After working with young people for 15 years as a drama teacher, actor and arts charity volunteer, I have a perspective on young people’s experiences of the arts and how the arts influences, supports and encourages their drive and access to learning.

Due to recent proposals of another wave of local arts funding cuts, Arts Council England has made a range of recommendations. It requires a stronger recognition and evaluation of teaching for creativity in schools; a recognition of this teaching in the Ofsted inspection process; as well as inclusion of the arts as standard in the curriculum to key stage 3.

But why wait until KS3? Why not have it enforced from the start of all children’s education? Young children are very quick to pick up on what they are “not good at” and in turn can shut down their aspirations to experiment even with STEM subjects. The arts encourage children to pursue their learning regardless.

 

The Head of Arts Council England, Sir Nicholas Serota, said in an interview with Sky News, it is

short-sighted and morally wrong

 

 

 

 

... not to do more to teach children and young people to be creative - and that those benefits will go beyond the arts. The new Ofsted framework makes it clear that schools will now be judged on the extent to which they build on pupils' "cultural capital", yet arts subjects are still being squeezed out in schools.

The education system is failing our children.

If creativity is undermined. It's no surprise that not engaging in artistic learning results in creativity being impaired, whether that be creative writing, drama, art, dance, or the school choir. Involvement with the arts and culture is crucial: it develops the skills that fuel success, creates new friendships across uncharted boundaries, teaches empathy and understanding, leads to a love of learning across the curriculum, builds confidence in the child with the lowest self-esteem, encourages and nurtures building blocks for new ways of thinking and hope for tomorrow. Literally!

With Artificial Intelligence threatening to take away many jobs of the future, it is precisely these creative skills which will future-proof our children and enable them to have the human qualities to survive in an ever-changing world.

Without art subjects we are reducing engagement, clear understanding, empathy and communication skills in our children. Speaking and listening is still tested at schools but how can this carry on without the support of the arts? The arts give context - a hook to attach new learning to.

As Geoff Barton, General secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders says,

Show me a great school and I’ll show you a rich pulsing culture of the arts at its core.

 

We must shout out about the liberating, humanising intoxicating power of the arts, especially for children with learning difficulties.

So what happens to children when arts funding gets cut? A lot. Growing brains are deprived of the building blocks which are as equally important as early literacy and maths skills development.  Arts engagement also offers physical experiences. It is not enough to take a child to a museum (though that's great, too). Children must actively participate in artistic activity to reap the full benefits.

According to Lee Scott an education specialist and an Educational Advisory Board Member at the Goddard School in California...

Researchers and practitioners in neuro-aesthetics, the study of the interaction between the brain and the arts, have shown how the arts ... shape our brains. Architecture, music, dance, creative visual arts, and visual media can all engage the senses to create aesthetic experiences...

 

Verbal expression is impacted in children without arts provision. The arts after all has a language of its own. According to The Guardian, engaging with artistic projects — and especially drawing — helps kids analyse, visualize, and ultimately translate their world. Critical-thinking skills are not given the best chance to develop without creative learning support. Children can improve their critical-thinking skills by taking different approaches to an activity. Role play taking on a key character from a story book can bolster their imaginations, creating a different perspective and understanding a different view point. We must not fail to recognise the contribution that the arts make to the health and wellbeing of children, and to the development of individual identity.

But why invest so much time and money when it's difficult to make a career out of it? If we consider our economy, it is also worth noting that theatres, libraries and museums are adding £10.8bn to the UK economy, overtaking farming as an essential economic contributor. Continuing to make cuts to public funding has resulted in leading arts figures warning that the industry which employs 360,000 people across the country will begin to suffer and drive out diversity.

So whether it is to provide a stable future for our economy, create an emotionally literate generation of thinkers and learners ready to embrace their future, or simply to see smiles on faces in classrooms, the Arts should be seen. We need to make time to make it happen.

We need the Arts.

Industry Policy Research

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