The Case for Teaching Art in Schools


Why is teaching art in schools important? If you're asking that question, I don't think you understand the positive impact that the arts can have.

Unless you live under a rock, or not in the UK you might have heard that the Nasty Party want to sell our publicly owned schools off to the highest bidders. They want schools to become academies that are owned and run essentially for profit by companies. There has been a large public outcry about this, and teachers are far from impressed either.

Ninety-three per cent of headteachers, their deputies and assistants polled by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) agreed the Government’s policy to turn all schools in the academies was “inappropriate”.

The Independent

Apart from the obvious robbery of these currently publicly owned buildings and grounds, is the concern over the change in curriculum. When I was in Secondary School (over ten years ago) I had roughly three hours of art a week, I also had two hours of music and an hour of drama. When it came to choosing my GCSE's, if I had chosen art, music or drama I would have had more time allocated. (I didn't take art at GCSE level because I couldn't abide Mr Cross who was my art teacher. I also wanted to be a vet, so took Latin instead, canis, cani, canem, cane).

The government has put pressure on schools to deliver the Ebac, which comprises of English, maths, science, humanities and languages. There is no room for arts, music or drama. In an effort to appear 'outstanding' in league tables schools strip the arts from the curriculum. There's an under current that whispers in the ear of the impressionable that the arts are not worth studying. I've spoken before, when talking about Arts Emergency, at how important teaching art in schools is. I think I might have briefly mentioned too, how art, or the ideas sparked by art saved my life.

The arts are important and teaching art in schools is important and concerns us all. Not one of us lives a life that is not impacted somehow by someone that has studied an art. We listen to music, we watch tv, films, plays, we use things that someone has designed (Joseph Joseph kitchen wares!!). The arts provide us with a culture, the arts provide us an escape from the monotony that can be daily life.

There are two strains at play,

  1. Children aren't being taught the arts
  2. Children aren't being taught how valuable the arts are

The arts are not just about hobbies or having fun. Teaching art is about teaching critical thinking and analysis. It's about being in an environment where those learning are able to experiment and to learn from those experiments. It's only from trying new things out that we learn, and the curve is going to be embarrassing at times. It's going to be painful occasionally, too.

Those of us in the arts, we don't stop learning, we don't stop trying and we don't stop getting things wrong sometimes (ok, maybe just me). Especially when we're trying new things. (definitely me).

It scares me, the future of schools and what our children will be taught. I know I didn't take art at GCSE level, but that was a choice I made, an informed choice. It's having that choice that is important. As always there will be those that don't let the lack of formal education stop them. There is a wealth of individuals out there that has chosen a creative career path and they have taught themselves. There are many that have overcome other obstacles, but I can't help believe that it shouldn't be a fight to learn and live how an individual wants to.

Maybe I'm just too left wing. Maybe I'm too idealist. Maybe I'm just an idiot who talks out her arse. Whatever. I care.

I care that there may be another fifteen year old girl out there, whose life is at risk of tumbling down into drink, drugs and chasing the next high. Who might not be able to find solace in an arts subject. I'm concerned that we might lose out on musicians, writers, performers, because the Government we have only sees wealth when it looks like money.