we have had a couple of arts-based school trips this week. Year 11 went to the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford to research for their GCSE Art project work and the music department ran a trip to see ‘Stomp’ at the New Theatre, Oxford, on Friday night. Next week, nearly 200 students will take part in performing arts workshops run by international group Gen Verde. These will culminate in a public concert in a 1,000- seat auditorium.
Why are we doing all this? It’s not going to have a direct impact on our English & Maths results. It certainly doesn’t make a jot of difference as far as the EBacc is concerned. Nevertheless, we do it because it’s important.
Arts provide a way for pupils to express themselves and fulfill their creative potential. A curriculum missing the arts cannot represent all that pupils are capable of expressing or achieving, nor can it prepare them to take up their role in society. Who would want to live in a society bereft of art, literature, theatre or music? It’s important therefore that we don’t view arts in school as an extra; a ‘desirable’ but not an ‘essential’. We know that children can be mathematicians and musicians, scientists and sculptors, astronomers and actors – they shouldn’t be forced to choose. The arts should not be in competition with maths, science or any other subject. An appreciation of the arts, and opportunities to explore our creativity enable us to be better writers, mathematicians, scientists, historians, etc. In short, the arts enable us to be better people, because artistic creativity is part of what it means to be human.
If we need to be pragmatic, the arts are also a major contributor to the UK economy. In 2013, the Arts Council reported that the Arts and culture industry had an annual turnover of £12.4 billion, bringing nearly £6 billion of gross added value into the UK economy (you can read the report here). Earlier this year, the Department for Culture media & sport estimated that the wider creative arts, media and entertainments industry accounted for 1.7 million jobs and was worth £76.9 billion a year to our economy (read more here).
So arts in education allow students to develop their creativity and reach their full potential as whole individuals, they enrich society and enable us all to lead more fulfilled lives, and they form a key part of our economy. Their absence from the the EBacc makes a mockery of the concept. It’s an omission that schools must address: The Arts may have missed out at the DfE, but we can’t let them be missing from the experience of the children we teach.
I welcome your comments. I’d also like to hear how schools integrate arts into the curriculum.
I’ve also written about the place of practical science in the whole school curriculum here.