The commonly held narrative is that the education system has become obsessed with the progress and attainment of young people within a very narrow set of parameters, principally maths and English in primary schools and other Ebacc subjects in secondary schools. This perception has international resonance. In ‘Creative Schools’ Ken Robinson recounts:
‘In the last ten years especially, I hear people everywhere saying how exasperated they are by the deadening effects of testing and standardization on them, their children, or their friends. Often they feel helpless and say there’s nothing they can do to change education.’
During a recent consultation I have conducted interviews with a range of headteachers, senior leaders and arts leaders. An interesting and informative theme has emerged that suggests not everyone feels helpless and many are actively doing something to change education: they are exploiting the power of the creative arts.
Quiet, confidential interviews have resulted time after time in different educators articulating their pride in delivering a more rounded and exciting educational experience by weaving the arts into the curriculum. It’s low budget, often a bit ad hoc and sometimes rather covert but it’s there as a consistent theme. For several of the educators that I interviewed the extra work that they put in to ensuring that vibrant cultural and artistic expression was a part of school life formed part of a subversive resistance. This was their way of articulating a challenge to the drone curriculum and giving voice to something richer and more textured in the life experience of the young people that they educate. It was inspirational to hear.