1.3 million people are employed in the arts in the UK. Why do some people think that in austere times, the arts must be on the back burner? When children are encouraged to participate in the arts, it enhances all their learning. Creativity is about empowerment. The arts touch everything we do. To make anything, you need imagination and creativity. To appreciate what you have created takes an ability to understand how creativity works. How to imagine something and make it into a reality, is part of a creative process.
To give children a love of learning at an early age is a goal all teachers aspire to. Access to the arts means that they will come through their school careers as fully rounded individuals, with an inate love of art and culture, as well as an understanding of maths and science, because the arts should be a conduit through which children learn all subjects. Science can be taught through creative arts, as can maths. Music is full of maths.
Children who have access to the arts are happier and learn better. To say that the arts have to come second to maths and science is short-sighted. The arts enable children to blossom and understand imagination. Creativity is in every part of our lives. To not be able to use creativity leaves a huge vacuum in a life. Funding for the arts must be seen as essential and not some sort of icing on the cake.
Perhaps there is a fear of the arts in education; a fear that kids will go to university and gain arts degrees that are perceived as useless, but I say again, 1.3 million people are employed in the arts in the UK. People’s lives are enriched by the arts. It allows you to express yourself and find yourself in a way that nothing else can. Dance and Drama and Music should be as valued in the school curriculum as any other subject. It should be at the core of any curriculum. Creative practice should be embedded in every subject taught. The power of a creative approach to learning can never be underestimated.
For years, secondary education has been geared towards passing exams. Government must understand that we are losing many children who, through more investment in the arts within schools, would succeed where they are currently failing in their education. Many families cannot afford music lessons for talented children. Those children should have access to music within school; it should be serious access where schools can recognise children with real music talent and support them, but not at the expense of other children. All children should be given the opportunity to experience music, dance, drama, in fact all the arts should be a part of their total education. Are we really content to produce of frustrated and narrow school- leavers who do not have the skills to appreciate or participate in the arts at all?
There needs to be a real sea-change in how we see and value the arts. Businesses should realise that the arts teach young people empathy, creativity, the ability to use imagination, effective communication and an ability to see the bigger picture – all skills that employers look for in their staff. The arts stand you in good stead in later life. When the work life ends, imagination and creativity enhance retirement. To know how to access the arts as an older person, will enable you to have a fuller and richer retirement.
A cultural education must be integrated into all subjects learnt at school. It’s not just about teaching maths and science. The idea that the only thing to prioritize are targets that have to be met, is worrying. Parents need to work far more with teachers to introduce children to culture. There should a be cross cultural approach in schools. Children should see a cultural education as part of their everyday learning. We appear to be educating a class of kids that can only pass exams but are turned off education. Education is life long and the arts can encourage children to understand this. Schools tend to focus only on getting the good exam results. But we know that participation in any form of creativity, helps children to get better exam results.
In my working career I have run music and drama sessions with children. I have taken productions into school and have seen how young people have not just embraced creativity but have also learned team work, responsibility, the ability to think in a new way. I have seen very difficult kids develop in extraordinary and unexpected ways. Sophie’s Choices is a play about Young Carers. It toured Devon as Forum Theatre, enabling children to discuss the content of the play and attempt to solve the problems shown in the piece.