In our latest Future Focus blog article, ACS Egham's Head of Visual Arts, Andrew Vaughan, explores the significance of 'the arts' in the modern world, and how it helps children develop highly valuable and transferrable skills for the future.
Leading artists say excluding art at school will seriously damage young people’s futures. That’s a bold statement. Can it really be true? It was based on a letter signed by 100 artists including Tracey Emin, Rachel Whiteread, Phyllida Barlow, Anish Kapoor, Jeremy Deller and Antony Gormley, published in The Guardian on Tuesday May 8th 2018.
You might say, “well they would say that wouldn’t they?” and as an art teacher myself, you’d expect me to agree.
The letter says there is compelling evidence that the study of creative subjects is in decline in state schools and that entries to arts subjects have fallen to their lowest level in a decade.
This means that young people are being deprived of opportunities for personal development in the fields of self-expression, sociability, imagination and creativity.
I agree with the views expressed in that letter entirely. You might be surprised to know that leading bankers and management consultants agree with me too. We often invite parents and business leaders to talk here at ACS International Schools. I was delighted to hear the CEO of a Global Bank saying that they are just as likely to recruit someone who has an art degree as one in maths, because their business is looking for innovators; people who can synthesise ideas and come up with new options.
At another event run here at ACS through our Centre for Inspiring Minds, a speaker from one of the top four management accountancy firms gave a presentation on their approach to staff recruitment and development. The company had conducted an internal analysis looking at the scores awarded in staff appraisals. Employees with degrees in the arts subjects had higher performance results than those with maths or business degrees.
These anecdotes from the world of work illustrate what those of us working as teachers and artists have been saying for so long. Art is a vital way to develop creativity, innovation. It can both energise and soothe the mind. These qualities are needed more than ever, in our globally connected, digital world.
I could quote hundreds of statistics from the business world which demonstrate the importance of creative arts to the economy; just think of the film industry, or the gaming industry which between them contribute £92bn a year to the UK economy.
But perhaps the most convincing argument for you as a parent is the human one.
Art is a doorway to open-ended creativity, it allows us the explore and express personal feelings and responses to the world. It is your view of the world, and how you convey it. It is perfectly, uniquely yours. We can help you develop your skills, but the inner vision and inspiration is your own.
A study by the University of Sydney* found that active participation in the arts increases student’s motivation, engagement in class, self-esteem and improves wellbeing. My view is that it achieves these things because it allows children to express themselves and explore the world around them.
We are extremely lucky at ACS to have robust, well-resourced art provision, and see it as a vital part of every child’s education. We embed art across the curriculum, and consider it an essential partner with science learning. We talk about the importance of STEAM learning, not STEM - because STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics.
So, to go back to the bold statement at the beginning of this post. Yes, I think a lack of art at school does diminish our lives. I’m delighted to say though that at ACS art is flourishing and has a bright future, enhancing the lives of all the children who study with us.
About the author: Andrew Vaughan is Head of Visual Arts at ACS Egham and has worked as an IB Examiner for more than 20 years. Andrew has also taught art in various countries across the world - including Holland, China, Japan and East Africa.
*Young People's Creative and Performing Arts Participation: A Longitudinal Study of Reciprocal Effects