Arts in Education

An independent report for the Welsh Government into Arts in Education in the Schools of Wales

Dai Smith

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This report carries with it a (good) health warning. If most, or all, of its recommendations are accepted and implemented a sea-change in attendance, aspiration and ultimately achievement in the schools of Wales is assured.

Yet the alternative (bad) health warning is just as stark and both are upheld by intensive research and thorough investigation. That the arts may be the game-changer in our current educational practice will seem counterintuitive to some, but the evidence is, I believe, compelling. More, if we are blindsided by the ways and means of (conventional) process, of whatever kind and however well-intentioned, then we will fail to engage as a whole society with the actual outcomes of our educational system. That they are measured does not, in itself, make them valid indicators.

In other words, in the rapidly changing global world of creative-led economies driven by the imperatives of creative industries, we will not have truly asked for what ends do we seek improved literacy and numeracy. We will not then have found the means to translate basic skills into higher (both marketable and social) qualities. We must, if we are to succeed economically and thrive socially, ground a quality education in both creativity as practice and culture as knowledge. At the heart of this unity are the arts – arts which inspire and then create our desired end of the creative society. Otherwise, at best, we will be imitative and therefore second rate.

Much of what we learned from this Review was deeply encouraging. Much of what we saw and heard was, especially in the primary sector, exemplary and fit-for-purpose anywhere on the globe. All the more reason to say that where the excellence is patchy, it should be uniform; where the barriers are in place, they should be removed; where the pioneers are in clusters, they should be widespread; where coworking is occasional, it should be constant; where expectations are low, they should be raised; where skills and confidence are lacking, they should be supplied; and where resource is finite, priority should rule. In the end it will be our choice, but it remains, either way, their future.

Source: Preface