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It was a Tuesday night like any other. I was musing on the day’s events on Twitter, especially the proposed changes to the National Curriculum. One of these is the abolition of so-called ‘soft’ GCSE subjects like Drama, Media Studies and PE. Inspired by a community of passionate educators and practitioners I decided I’d had enough of armchair activism. It was time to take matters into our own hands. I suggested a meeting to discuss the next action point in person and got up to make a cup of tea. Within seconds, my Twitter timeline was buzzing with responses from teachers, directors and other professionals who wanted to get involved. So the campaign to save the Arts in schools was born. This website was set up for members of the campaign to share their experiences and opinions on the value of Arts subjects in schools. It will also be used to share news of what I hope will be a successful campaign!

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  1. My colleagues and I have had numerous concerned conversations recently about Mr Gove’s plans to meddle with our curriculum once again. It deeply concerns us that we have a government who no longer listens to the views of those they serve. We are being told that they are now considering axing PE and Arts subjects, as they are deemed ‘soft options’. This would be another top-down initiative that would fail to comprehend how these subjects inspire, motivate and enrich the lives of our children. Any move to relegate these subjects would, we believe, have damaging long-term consequences on our culture, the creativity of our children and their motivation.

    How is it that history has shown and great minds have espoused the virtues of creativity and an inquiring mind, yet our Government wants us to believe that making examinations more ‘academic’ and as tough as it was in the ‘good old days’ is the way forward? They appear to want to turn the clock back to an era of chalk-and-talk and passive learning, last seen in the 1950s.

    These Arts play a vital role in the development of children. Some people ask the valid question: What is the point of the Arts? However, take a moment to imagine what schools would be like without the Arts? What would a learning environment be like without the chance to sing, to dance, to make music, with no opportunity to express yourself by painting, drawing or sculpting. To have little chance to take risks, to play, to question. To be denied the joy and complete absorption that the creative process gives you.

    As a senior teacher, I observe many lessons in all subject areas. Rarely do I find the commitment, passion and risk-taking that are often the ‘norm’ in the Arts. I teach children from 11 -18 and I find that Drama gives students the opportunity to learn that it is exciting and rewarding to explore, not always knowing what the final outcome will be. It is okay to fail, as long as we learn. Exploration is everything. Relegate subjects like Drama, and our children’s ability to take risks, be creative and develop resilience is diminished.

    My Arts faculty posed this same question to some of our students. Here are just a few of their responses:

    “Drama is epic! It makes me feel as though I am enclosed in a world of imagination and creativity…”

    “Drama has the capability to inspire and helps you grow as a person! I genuinely believe that Drama has made me the person I am…”

    “Music is amazing – it uplifts me and shows a whole new side to me…. Music gives you the chance to shine and show others you have a skill…”

    “Art helps you to make sense of the world…Art allows you to be yourself…Art is a gateway to your mind…”

    When our students were asked to come up with a collective opinion about the Arts, it didn’t take them long to pen the following statement…

    ‘The Arts connects people together, it gives you perspective, an insight into the world around you, it gives you a point of view and opinions…the Arts = freedom!’

    Powerful statements that more than justify the point of the Arts in education, but if you still needed to look for evidence of the benefits to be had in an Arts education you will discover years of research show that the Arts are closely linked to almost everything that we as a nation say we want for our children and demand from our schools: academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement and a fair opportunity.

    In fact there is a lot of research that indicates that students who are involved in the Arts have associated gains in Maths, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking and verbal skills. Furthermore, it has been proven to improve motivation, concentration, confidence and teamwork. A 2005 report by the Rand Corporation argues that the intrinsic pleasures and stimulation of the art experience do more than sweeten an individual’s life – according to the report they can connect people more deeply to the world and open new ways of seeing.

    Sadly a comprehensive Arts education has been slipping for more than three decades, the result of tight budgets and an ever-growing list of government mandates that have crammed the classroom curriculum. This has left a public sense that the Arts are lovely but not essential. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    The Arts industry is one of the largest employers in the UK and also one of the most inclusive. This is another sound reason to keep the Arts alive at schools.

    A creative team involves directors, producers, set designers, lighting and sound designers, stage managers, choreographers and musicians. Behind the scenes are electricians, artists, carpenters, scene hands, sound and lighting engineers as well as props and costume makers, wardrobe assistants, hairdressers, make-up artists. There are many opportunities for our children to look forward to in the world of the Arts, but these will be stifled if the Arts are relegated to the periphery of education.

    The whole of the teaching community should rise to the challenge of ensuring our children have a rich, creative and diverse range of options to chose from. Now is the time for us to make a stand for what we hold dear.

    Lee Brown (Head of Creative Arts faculty) and Melissa James (Head of Art) – St. Clere’s School, Essex.

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