Creative Class Action Provides an Inspirational Future for Children; BIG READ as an Extensive New Report into the Role of Arts in Education Is Published, Its Author, Dai Smith, (Inset) Chair of the Arts Council of Wales, Tells Us Why Arts Education Is Crucial for the Future of Wales

Article excerpt

Byline: Dai Smith

IT has been a listening year for me and the Arts Council of Wales.

I have listened, observed and participated since the summer of 2012 as independent chair of the Arts in Education Review Panel which was commissioned by the Welsh Government to enquire into the current state and status of the expressive arts in the schools of Wales.

All over Wales we have held focus group meetings of teachers, artists and arts organisations, of school students and parents and the general public; we made study visits to Scotland and England, and to schools in Wales; we researched and discussed the role of the arts in education as practised from Singapore to Sydney, from Chicago to Calgary, from Finland to Fochriw.

Earlier this week my independent report for the Welsh Government into Arts in Education in the Schools of Wales was published and the Ministers for Education and of Culture and Sport are set to pronounce on its recommendations.

If they are implemented in full I predict a sea change in the relationship of arts and education in Wales, and a very creative future indeed.

The listening, and the thinking, will have been worthwhile.

We know that there is a great body of evidence now that has been gathered over the past 20 to 30 years which demonstrates unequivocally that where you have schools which give time to cultural learning there is benefit both in that sphere and also to the other disciplines.

The arts enable young people to explore the world of learning by expressing themselves, and this discipline is fundamental to achieving success in later life.

By making art an integral part of the national curriculum in Wales, we can give the next generation of artists, designers, engineers, creators and cultural leaders the opportunity to develop the imagination and skills that are vital to our future, but we can also embed the principle of creative thought and response in all our children.

The most important developments in civilisation have come through the creative process.

Increasingly, employers emphasise the need for qualities and aptitudes which straitjacketed academic qualifications are not always designed to produce - powers of creativity, of communication, of empathy, adaptability and social skills. Teaching in and through the arts, far from detracting from literacy and numeracy, should be seen as an enabler to driving up standards in those academic priorities.

The value of the arts therefore needs to be reiterated within schools and, importantly, schools need to be supported in taking up and delivering more imaginative approaches to cross-curricular creative activity.

I believe that my report provides a clear picture of the advantages of such learning.

The evidence is overwhelming and indisputable.

We already have teachers and artists who are ambitious to catapult Wales to the forefront of what threatens, or promises, to be a revolutionary transformation of educational systems in some of the more far-seeing countries of the world. …