From 20-24 March 2017 the British Council co-ordinated a visit from 7 Colombian educationalists to the UK. Over the five days, they were taken on a tour of numerous education institutions, with the aim of exploring the arts curriculum context in England and Scotland. Taking in a combination of policy focused talks and visits to schools, the visit aimed to showcase innovating and effective practices in the integration of arts and creativity in the curriculum in schools in the UK.
We were pleased to welcome the delegation to the A New Direction office for a very productive and informative meeting. The delegates were particularly interested in how they might be able to use Arts Award as a flexible suite of qualifications in organisations outside of school, as there is no equivalent qualification yet in Colombia.
The group were also interested in the economic benefits of the case for arts and culture. In Colombia, companies are presently required to invest in sports and arts activities for schools, but this is not generally connected to developing skills for the workplace. The delegates were therefore also interested in the potential of A New Direction’s skills and employability programme Create Jobs, which aims to create a pipeline of local talented young adults from east London to businesses, to plug the creative industries skills gaps between what the industry needs and what education provides.
Professional development and leadership in arts and cultural practice in schools and cultural organisations, and connecting the two via networks was also seen as an interesting tool to support Colombian schools to develop their cultural offer.
Lastly, the London Curriculum was of great interest to the group as it proactively uses the city as the basis for cultural education, fusing the curriculum with relevant arts and cultural practice- that accessible to all.
We hope that the delegation left with some useful information and ideas to take back to Columbia, and we were delighted to receive the following feedback after the meeting from Adrian Ingham, Programme Director at the British Council:
The brief for the group was to undertake a 'scoping exercise' of the work happening in this country to promote the arts in the curriculum. This is part of an enlightened policy decision in Colombia - in a post-conflict period - to see the arts as having a central role to play in bringing peace and reconciliation to a recently troubled country.
First impressions matter, and this initial step on the Colombia voyage of discovery could, had it gone badly, have been disastrous. It was no such thing, of course, because the team from A New Direction offered everything that could have been desired for an introduction to the complex landscape of arts education in England. Openness and honesty were the distinguishing characteristics of the talks we experienced. No question was shirked, no attempt to paint a false picture entertained....
What did the group learn? First and foremost to allow the ideas to settle down before deciding how to interpret them for the very different context that is Colombia. They met close to two dozen professionals and organisations in the United Kingdom by the time the visit ended. We have a shared reflection at the end of each day and what is interesting after three of the five days is that the very first visit, that to A New Direction, is the one that recurs as having the potential to inform their work when they return to Colombia. Words like network, mapping, contagion, agency, entrepreneurship, communication, equity, partnership, entitlement, diversity, heritage...will linger and reverberate long after the end of the visit.
Colombia is seeking its own new way forward. A New Direction may well have helped them significantly in finding a path suits them, their teachers and students best.