Michael Gove recently shocked the nation with his plans to scrap the controversial EBacc qualification and reform the GCSE model instead. There's no doubt in my mind that the EBacc would have diluted schools' appetite for arts subjects, potentially marginalising them over time, so this swift reversal of that possibility is a very welcome move. The passionate campaigning by big name arts professionals to keep the arts in school was equally as welcome, and it proved just how much the UK values the arts within education and beyond.
Whilst the initial plans to implement the EBacc were incredibly alarming, the loud and very public backlash also proved that Britain is proud to be the cultural capital of the world. We must now keep this momentum going and ensure that our teachers are delivering the arts in the classroom with as much passion and creativity as possible.
There is one problem however. Having spoken directly to teachers about the challenges they face using arts during lessons, I discovered that a lack of teacher confidence is hugely affecting arts education in school. Some teachers said they felt unsure of their own skills in introducing the arts to groups of children. Others said they could not fit the arts into lesson time unless they complemented other subjects within the curriculum, and were uncertain how to achieve this. This issue is particularly acute in primary schools, where teachers are expected to cover a wide range of curriculum areas without any specialist training in creative skills and arts disciplines.
What I believe would be most valuable to teachers, is giving them the opportunity to work directly with arts professionals in order to equip them with the skills they need to use arts in the classroom, whilst demonstrating how they can be used to bring all subjects right across the curriculum to life. Our Catalyst teacher training programme, for example, is UK wide and allows teachers to focus on two different art forms during a full day of professional development. The training consists of interactive workshops with actors, musicians, composers, poets and artists who give teachers practical ideas they can use back in their classroom. We have also devised a series of resources for teachers showing them how to use the arts across a variety of subjects.
One aim of Children & the Arts is to get children into the arts venues themselves where they can experience the arts first hand, and this must start with teachers. We ensure that Catalyst training days are held in arts venues throughout the UK so that teachers are able to familiarise themselves with the venue. This hopefully empowers them to take their pupils outside of the classroom and into the venue on a more regular basis.
Ultimately if teachers can learn from arts professionals and teach the arts in the classroom with confidence, we are one step closer towards ensuring that the arts remain a vital and valued part of our society.