New National Curriculum 2014: Opportunities for arts and culture?
The latest in the Schools Forum series explored what’s required by the new National Curriculum, and how it offers the potential for advancing and enriching the arts and culture offer.
By Greg Klerkx
September marks a huge change for schools across England as the government’s new National Curriculum begins to take hold. At the first AND Schools Forum of 2014, held on 29 January at Sadler’s Wells, 35 teachers from schools across London gathered to explore what the National Curriculum actually says about the arts – and how it might open new opportunities for schools to create a richer, more innovative arts offer.
Donagh, AND Partnerships Director, gave an overview
of the new National Curriculum and
its key timelines and milestones. She noted that there is specific guidance for
Music, Art and Design, and for Dance and Drama in the context of PE and English
respectively. Along with design & technology, the humanities (geography and
history), and modern foreign languages, the arts (comprising art & design,
music, dance, drama, and media arts) will not be compulsory subjects after the
age of 14. However, all pupils in maintained schools will have a statutory
entitlement to be able to study a minimum of one subject in each of these four
areas, meaning that all pupils will be entitled to study one arts subject
should they wish.
many teachers would like the arts to have a stronger claim in the National
Curriculum, Holly pointed out that it is merely a baseline. The government emphasises
that schools will still be evaluated on their broader offer to pupils, and that
‘The school curriculum comprises all
learning and other experiences that each school plans for its pupils. The
National Curriculum forms one part of the school curriculum.’ Holly
also highlighted that a key stated aim of the National Curriculum is ‘to engender an appreciation of human creativity
and achievement’, which the arts are uniquely placed to do.
mentioned five broad approaches that might help schools to think about maximising
their arts and culture offer. While these might not work for every school, they
may provide some useful starting points for discussion and further thought:
- Whole school approaches that deeply integrate the arts may be possible, given that the new NC has fewer requirements. This potentially frees up time that could be used to support a creative offer within and beyond the main curriculum.
- Area-based curricula could be of interest to schools willing to consider a local, area based curriculum working with partners. This has been successfully achieved in Peterborough, for instance.
- Partner and consortium approaches focus on how schools can develop whole school curricula in partnership with other agencies and organisations. An example given was
- Cross curricular approaches that use the arts and culture to amplify, extend and enhance teaching in other subjects. For instance, art could be used in KS2 Maths by having pupils draw 2-D shapes and make 3-D shapes using modelling materials. Dance has been used to demonstrate the properties of objects in motion (physics), as another example.
- Subject specific and specialisation approaches look at opportunities for specialisation within a defined cluster of schools. Could schools in a teaching school alliance or other cluster provide/devise a range of offers between them? Might schools jointly pay for practitioners to come in and provide specific expertise?
Following Holly’s presentation, teachers worked together to explore their key questions and issues around the National Curriculum, and to offer examples of particular approaches that might offer a way forward. Teachers were asked in table groups to free-write all the questions they had – from the technical to the big picture – about what the NC might mean for the arts and culture in their schools. Using the silent conversation exercise below, each table group then generated a single, overarching question of interest to which others were asked to reply using Open Space methodology.
key themes emerged from this process. On the subject of how to encourage teachers to experiment with more creative approaches
to teaching and learning, ideas included linking with other schools to
share practice, holding INSET days focused on arts-led teaching, and getting
pupil feedback to suggest new teaching and learning pathways. “Allow (teachers)
to take risks,” suggested one teacher. “You can learn just as much through
something not going as planned as you can from success,” suggested another.
Another teacher offered that “we need to make sure it’s understood that the
arts are vital to many children as their ‘way in’ to learning and school.”
Another common area of concern was how to convince school leadership of the ‘value proposition’ for the arts at a time when tight budgets and changing priorities are shifting resources elsewhere. “Evidence, evidence, evidence,” wrote one teacher. “There is plenty of research showing the value and impact of the arts and this should be available and public whenever possible.” The Cultural Learning Alliance is a very useful source of evidence and research. Several teachers said that keeping the arts visible was critical: “Showcase successes: creative subjects are the best PR for schools.”
There was also a broad discussion about how schools could best assess their arts offer. Most schools represented at the Forum had achieved Artsmark, and teachers said it had proven to be a great way to engage their entire staff team in an exploration of where and how the arts positively affected learning and supported the broader school vision. “It really pulled us together and has had a lasting impact on breaking us out of our subject silos,” said one teacher. Teachers noted that both Artsmark and Arts Award are valued by Ofsted when it considers the breadth of a school’s offer to its pupils.
Download a more detailed document with the questions raised and responses offered here:
Download Holly’s presentation here:
Download the silent discussion exercise instructions here:
A New Direction has access to a variety of models and research documents that could help teachers build and deliver a stronger case for the arts. For more information see the Research and Resources section of the website go here.
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