Nick Gibb's statement (June 2015) that he made 'no apology' for promoting a curriculum that does not place a specific emphasis on the creative subjects was widely reported in the TES and other media outlets. It has served to fuel a debate about the purpose of our education system, its breadth and balance.
The Hastings and Rother Arts Education Network (HRAEN) meeting on 15th June provided a powerful insight into the value of precisely those subjects that Mr Gibb made no apology for diminishing.
The introduction by Stewart Drew (director and chief executive of the De La Warr Pavilion) noted the power and value of culture and creativity in the regional and national economy. As the twenty first century progresses it is clear that the economies of the more economically developed countries cannot compete with low cost labour and, sometimes, lax regulatory environment of the less economically developed. At the same time the developing, sometimes called BRIC, nations are challenging MEDCs for innovation and technical excellence. Creativity isn't an educational luxury it is one of the core components of economic growth and prosperity.
Rosemary Lindfield of Chantry Primary school and Neil Small of Castledown Primary school made a strong case for the value of the creative subjects in the primary sector, opening the imaginations and expectations of children whose family contexts can be constraining and lack resources or ambition. This was reinforced by inspirational example of a student inspired and engaged in education through art, shared by Edwin Money of Hastings Academy.
Social mobility, aspiration, educational achievement - these are all direct benefits from thriving, developmental arts programmes. And there are indirect benefits such as the personal growth encouraged by the work of Hilary Watkins and Lorna Hamilton Brown, or the character development described by artists from Culture Shift who inspired amazing performances from the students ofHelenswood Academy.
Anyone involved in education, with a passion for the growth and education of young people would have felt uplifted by the accounts provided in the HRAEN meeting; the purposeful collaboration of organisations such asArtswork, Rother District Council and Hastings Borough Council, and cultural institutions such as the De La Warr Pavilion and the Jerwood Gallery; and the desire of schools to break beyond the confines of a narrow curriculum.