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The True Value of Art in Schools

In recent times the arts and creativity have been slowly losing ground to more ‘academic’ subjects in schools. There is a clear hierarchy of subjects in schools which puts literacy and maths at a much higher level than art when in fact art and creativity could be more important than ever.

“Art has the role in education of helping children become like themselves instead of more like everyone else.”

- Sydney Gurewitz Clemens

Art engenders creativity and this is an attribute we must foster in children. It teaches children about colour, shape, space, and dimension. It develops motor skills, decision making, resilience, patience, and determination. Vincent Van Gogh said, “I am always doing what I cannot do yet in order to learn how to do it” and nothing could be truer. Without trying new things and ‘having a go’, we would never learn anything new. Art gives children the opportunity to do this and develop a sense of individuality and sense of self in a purposeful yet no-pressure environment. Art is often seen as a form of mindfulness, an escape from our busy technology-filled world and in a world where stress and anxiety is affecting more and more young people, we would do well to encourage greater creativity and individualism in our children:

“Creativity is contagious, pass it on.”

- 'Creative Growth Games' (1977) by E Raudsepp and GP Hough Jr

Children are naturally curious, but they are also naturally creative. Watch a child with a cardboard box, or a scrap of paper.  Look at them as they explore Minecraft, or build a ‘sofa fort’.  Ask them about their day, or their favourite-ever food, and you will see raw creativity looking back at you.  It doesn’t always fit into our model of ‘right’, and sometimes doesn’t even conform to the realms of possibility – or even the laws of physics!  But that doesn’t matter – it's creativity that is the end goal, not possibility.  It is, therefore, our job as educators to provide them with the right experiences, environment, and resources to allow this creativity to shine and develop, allowing children to be the best they can be. Creativity in schools should not be optional. If we are to help children grow into educated citizens (a central part of the ‘Cultural Capital’ aspiration), who are ready to take on the challenges of the 21st century, then creativity is essential. Not only do we want them to be creative in art, but we also want them to be able to find creative ways of solving 21st century problems requiring multidisciplinary approaches and lots of thinking outside the box.

An appreciation for art also goes a long way towards developing children’s ‘cultural capital’ along with helping them to develop their knowledge of history, geography, and cultural changes over time. Art has been heavily influenced by culture and historical events and there is no reason why art could not be used as a curriculum driver, the starting points for topics or sequences in learning which would go some way to raising its profile within schools.  Art, and creativity in general, also helps pupils develop ‘an appreciation of human creativity’; something that will benefit them academically – in every subject – as well as socially.  Let’s help our pupils get creative – but let’s learn how to be artists and creators ourselves.  If you would like to increase creativity through art in your school, take a look at our new full-day course: Raising Attainment in Primary Art.