Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

How to Paint an Appealing Picture of Art

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

How to Paint an Appealing Picture of Art

Article excerpt

Tempt students into creative subjects by showing they can lead to an exciting career

As the head of department for a subject that's optional at GCSE and A-level, you are in a constant fight for students.

I am a course leader for art at Ludlow College in Shropshire, so I feel the struggle particularly keenly. Since the start of the economic downturn, I've witnessed a clear change in direction: students are selecting more traditional subjects such as maths, English and history, and there has been a renewed interest in business studies. Suddenly, creative subjects are perceived as risky, and with England's education secretary Nicky Morgan telling students that pursuing the arts will hold them back in their careers (bit.ly/NickyMorgan), art departments need to show their worth more than ever.

But how do you convince students, and more often than not their parents, that a post-16 arts course is a positive option? At Ludlow, we've faced this challenge head-on and are now reaping the rewards of strengthening our arts offer. Here are my top tips, which should be equally applicable to other subjects:

Get your provision right

A key change has been emphasising the employability skills to be gained from each subject. We have made the relevance of our provision clear by focusing on three subjects - fine art, graphic communication and photography - and allowing students to tailor their course around them.

We also practise key skills, such as responding to design briefs using actual industry examples. The students have to "pitch" their ideas in as professional an environment as possible. This involves dressing appropriately and presenting not just to their tutor and peers but also to a graphic designer, who then gives feedback.

Perfect your planning

Once we decided what we were going to offer, we made sure that the courses were well planned. We revisited our year plans and looked at each week's lessons and learning objectives, asking ourselves the purpose of each task and either refining or discarding it. This has led to much more focused courses. The year plans remain flexible and tutors can adjust them.

Make the students feel part of something

If numbers are low, retention becomes even more critical. …

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