Since the first lockdown in the Spring of 2020 there has been a regular refrain of ‘getting back to normal’. An understandable impulse; faced with incredible trauma, uncertainty and loss who wouldn’t desire normalcy? But shouldn’t we have an ambition to move forward to better than the old normal?
In September 2018 Samantha Price, headteacher of Benenden School, penned an article for The Spectator (https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/the-value-of-an-arts-education) drawing attention to the value of the arts beyond any proven link to improved examination results. She noted the risk of the creative arts being squeezed from the curriculum and channelled into the utilitarian pursuit of examination results. Her case was twofold. Firstly, that the creative arts do serve a directly useful function. A government press release from February 2020 (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uks-creative-industries-contributes-almost-13-million-to-the-uk-economy-every-hour) estimated that the creative industries generated over £111 billion in the 2017/18 financial year; and that total is increasing. A focus by schools in the creative sector therefore represents a sensible investment in the future of UK plc. Secondly, she argued that only with the creative arts can schools lead the formation of a fully rounded person.
And all of that was before Covid-19 changed the world for all of us. If we are to move forward into something better than the old normal the creative arts, in their curricular and extracurricular formats, need to be central. If we wish to build an education system that is resilient, supportive of the best human qualities and suited to the challenges of the twenty first century let’s reconsider the place of the creative arts.