Thursday, 13 October 2016

This week's ReadItTorial - Why are the creative arts only given any credence at school when your kids are older?

As Charlotte was taking part in her school's open day recently, we decided to have a sneak around the senior school to see what sort of facilities they had if we decided to keep her there until she was at school leaving age.

I've constantly found the school's focus on sporting achievements really frustrating. We get regular newsletters trumpeting pupil's sporting prowess, or the school winning an inter-school championship for various sports and activities, but as a bit of an artsy creative bod, never anything in the newsletter about pupils winning writing competitions, art competitions or having their artwork more widely recognised.

In junior school, art lessons are fairly limited to the usual 'heres a piece of paper, here's some paint, paint a tree or something' (at least that's the way it seems from the stuff Charlotte brings home). We love to draw and paint and create at home and we're all over any new books that have a creative slant.

It struck me as odd that art lessons are fairly 'basic' when kids are younger with their minds more receptive to a bit of gentle guidance on techniques, or even on pushing their artistic abilities into more esoteric forms.

Thankfully it looks like they do far more in senior school and in fact during our very brief tour we saw some incredible work, and some amazing projects taking place. My musing is why does this happen at a point when most kids are given the option to choose what they carry on studying - and often at the point when most kids will drop art subjects in favour of subjects that are perceived to be more marketable when it comes to choosing a career.

What encouragement is there for children who may want to turn their passion into a career and are creative and talented enough to take things further? Sure enough, the school seemed very proud of the work being displayed, but speaking to a trio of pupils who were demonstrating their phenomenally fantastic ceramic work, it felt like they'd already acknowledged that they wanted to carry on - but were under no illusion that it would be a tough path to tread compared to fixing on a career in banking or (god forbid) IT.

My wife (probably quite rightly) claims I'm biased in favour of the creative arts, because that's the study background I chose. I couldn't make a success of it, mostly because I was (am) rubbish and didn't actually get to take on any formal art training until late at school, and then later in life in a career break. By then it was probably too late to actually make a proper go of it but I sometimes wonder if things might've been different if there'd been a better path laid out in early years and then through middle to early senior school.

I guess the only advice I could offer the girls was that now, more than ever, the world needs creative arts and despite the government's best attempts to kill arts funding off stone dead, and discourage that sort of 'messing about' in schools, the more you try to stamp something creative down, the more people will want to take up the baton and make it work and make a career out of it. Go them!