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Some years ago now, my primary school dance club chose  Sylvia Plath’s poem ‘Mushrooms’ (1962) to perform in a Medway town arts festival at Chatham dockyard. We read and discussed the text, improvised our interpretation of mushrooms ‘overnight, very whitely, discreetly’ and of girls (and boys) taking ‘hold on the loam’  to ‘acquire the air’. [...]
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It is 20 years since the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education (NACCCE, 1999) offered a simple if daunting definition of creativity: Imaginative activity fashioned so as to produce outcomes that are both original and of value. NACCCE also made a landmark recommendation about the need for a national strategy to embed creativity [...]
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Assessment undertaken in schools should be valuable and worthwhile for students. In recent years, the pressures placed upon schools to improve performance have increased the pressure on teachers to assess frequently and summatively (Fautley, 2010). In my experience as a music teacher, assessing in this way does not always equate to success, worth or value [...]
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In the 60 years since CP Snow’s Rede Lecture of 1959, there has been a considerable narrowing in the cultural divide between science and the humanities, and only the most entrenched observer would continue to insist that the gulf he described between the ‘two cultures’ still exists. Much of this entente has come from a [...]
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This case study describes a research project called SciArt designed to explore how encouraging collaboration between art and science supports students’ developing knowledge and understanding about ‘big ideas’ in science. SciArt also explored how participation in a cross-curricular experience of this type affects students’ perceptions of the nature of knowledge and practices used in art [...]
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What are the arts for? Howard Gardner (1990) suggested that the arts provide three interconnected developmental pathways: helping to develop a child’s perception, conceptualisation and productive activity. Eisner (2002) expanded on this connection between the arts and learning, articulating 10 key lessons: The arts enable children to make good judgments about qualitative relationships Problems can [...]
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Schools love to measure things. They like to collect these measurements up and present the numbers as an ineffable truth about a pupil’s progress. The data is exact and can predict what a child might get in a GCSE in a particular subject at some time in the future. And this works reasonably well for [...]
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Why teach art? In recent years, time pressures and focus on core subjects in the primary classroom have meant that art – and other foundation subjects – have been allocated less and less time. However, schools are still aiming to prepare students with skills beyond those that can be measured by tests and, together with [...]
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To neglect the contribution of the arts in education, either through inadequate time, resources or poorly trained teachers, is to deny children access to one of the most stunning aspects of their culture and one of the most potent means for developing their minds. Eisner,1987 Introduction Thanks to the new direction of Ofsted inspection, which [...]
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Research focus: Possibility thinking and the arts The arts are often underestimated in the curriculum, despite evidence indicating that they are central to the development of ‘little c’ creativity (Craft, 2001) and therefore should be included in the curriculum (Shaheen, 2010). ‘Little c’ creativity is characterised by an active engagement with everyday problems, where students [...]
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In 2017, the Cultural Learning Alliance published an updated version of their ‘Key research findings’, which explores large-scale research into the impact of arts and cultural education. The report cites research conducted that demonstrates the staggering impact that the arts can have, stating that ‘children from low income families who take part in arts activities [...]
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Tower Hamlets did not have a single student entered for A-level music in 2017–18 (Whittaker et al., 2019). It’s shocking statistics like this that reassure us that we are taking the correct journey with our primary curriculum; the decline in the arts as an academic progression route within our borough is something we need to [...]
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Disciplines and interdisciplinarity Historically, academic disciplines were defined through the departments within which they were taught at universities, with the same subject separation mirrored in the UK school system. For example, history and biology are single academic disciplines that are also taught as single subjects in schools, falling within the higher-level humanities and sciences faculties, [...]
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Whilst there is clear intention that children should have opportunities for practical experience, this seems to be limited to performance skills, rather than composing skills. Whilst performing is an important aspect of music education, it is just one parameter of what I would argue should be a much more all-embracing framework. I want to consider [...]
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On 26 May 2019, a range of news sources reported on a 'crisis in music education' (Alberge, 2019), telling of how A-level and GCSE music entries are falling sharply, particularly in deprived areas. The original research, conducted by Birmingham City University (Whittaker et al., 2019), complements findings in the ‘Music education: State of the nation’ [...]
Cross-curricular learning can be a fantastic tool for capturing students’ attention and inspiring them to learn and make connections across subjects. However, with a subject like music, which relies on the progressive development of skills (rather than the amassing of non-linear knowledge), a topic-based approach can be problematic. As Mills (2005) noted ‘It is difficult [...]
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The basis of teaching in a practical classroom, such as art and design or design technology, is the much repeated and reliable teacher-led demonstration. These demonstrations or modelling approaches allow the teacher to inform, instruct and guide students in their own practical outcomes; however, only recently have I considered the impact of cognitive load theory [...]
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As the focus of Ofsted moves to a broad and balanced curriculum and ensuring that cultural capital is developed alongside knowledge, the inclusion of the performing arts should be at the forefront of any debate around which subjects should be taught at school. There is a strong argument for teaching ‘art for art’s sake’ to [...]
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We know that participation in structured arts activities can improve learning, attainment, employability, health and social engagement (Cultural Learning Alliance, 2017), and initial training for primary teachers stresses the value of drama and creative approaches to learning. But time pressures lead to less attention directed towards how these translate into classroom practice, leaving teachers lacking [...]
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Up-skilling teachers in ‘drama for learning’ It is worth all teachers knowing some drama strategies and conventions and how to use them effectively. There are many drama strategies that can be used effectively by teachers of any subject, yet most teachers know few. With some ‘drama for learning’ CPD, teachers can learn many strategies and [...]
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The aim of this project was to see how drama could be used to contextualise understanding across a range of subjects. Dorothy Heathcote MBE created ‘Mantle of the Expert’ (2008) to develop teaching and learning through dramatic-inquiry-based approaches. This approach has been used successfully at primary level for many years, but I wanted to see [...]
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Designed with teachers, the Royal Opera House’s Create and Dance programme seeks to develop students’ understanding of dance, unlocking their imagination and creativity to promote learning across the curriculum. Creativity can be understood as having original ideas that have value, and imagination is the root of this process (Robinson and Aronica, 2015). Research suggests that structured arts [...]
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The decline of the arts in education has recently gained media attention, with headlines like ‘Arts in schools: The end of an era’ (Tambling, 2019). Meanwhile, the Creative Industries Federation have reported that the creative economy accounts for one in 11 jobs and employs 700,000 more people than the financial services across the UK (Creative [...]
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Introduction The arts can be a powerful vehicle for supporting children experiencing disadvantage, with rich approaches to learning in non-arts subjects and connecting the school curriculum with experiences beyond school. The growing commitment from teachers and leaders to harness the full potential of arts in the curriculum, along with the increased policy drive for the [...]
The DfE’s Standard for Teachers’ Professional Development (2016) suggests that a stand-alone training event, such as a one-off twilight session, is ‘unlikely to have a lasting impact on pupil outcomes’ and instead promotes a longer-term programme of varied activities. In this case study we (a Y6 teacher and a drama-practitioner) share our joint experience of [...]
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We began teaching our subjects to pass on our knowledge and passion, but with our busy daily working and personal lives we sometimes forget to ‘feed’ the very fire that began all those years ago. When the pedagogy and syllabus knowledge begin to embed, how might we revisit our passion for the subject we studied [...]
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Photographic education is in limbo, and the future of its impact is hanging in the balance without change (Rubinstein, 2009). The relatively new subject (in comparison to its more traditional, academic cousins) has carved its way through traditional art education and the digital revolution and gained a rightful place in higher education. Yet now this [...]
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We have recently seen the beginning of a decline in entry at GCSE and A-level for arts subjects (see Thinktank report: A Step Backward, 2019). It can be tempting, in austere times, to concentrate on ‘core’ subjects: English, maths, science and humanities, included in Progress 8 and the EBacc. The curriculum has narrowed to the [...]
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Please note, the author of this article is Director of Engagement at Lyfta, the subscription-based resource for schools described in this case study.  We live in an increasingly connected world. Many of our children are growing up exposed to greater diversity than ever before, through direct contact with people around them, as well as via [...]
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With increasing pressures to achieve academic success through rigorous examination processes, I will look at the balance that students can achieve through engaging in an arts-based course, enrichment activity or project. This reflection considers the rationale for engaging students through creative opportunities and an enrichment programme, in conjunction with a broad curriculum offer. Creative projects [...]
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Able, interested and motivated (AIM) is a term used by a small number of schools in the South West of England, to refer to pupils who have the motivation to pursue an area of learning, as well as the talent or prowess to support their determination. The term includes the intellectual, social, emotional, cognitive and [...]
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This research project was designed to understand the lived experience of nine general practitioners teaching art; three from primary schools in the UK and six from elementary schools in the US. It used a reflective-formative style of inquiry, relying on Dewey’s (1933) theory of knowledge (experience + reflection = new knowledge). Teachers from the UK [...]
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DIALLS (DIalogue and Argumentation for cultural Literacy Learning in Schools) is a three-year research project involving nine countries in and around Europe. In DIALLS, cultural literacy is reconceptualised as a dialogic social practice underpinned by tolerant, inclusive and empathetic interaction with others, moving beyond previous narrow understandings of it as knowledge about culture. In the [...]
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We believe that great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Arts Council England website Literacy training needs to be a focus for all schools because a solid foundation in reading and writing can provide a springboard for [...]
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A picture not only paints a thousand words and tells a story but also crosses language and communication barriers. It encourages inference; it involves both artist and audience; it is a piece of expression or reaction. The picture is the leveller, as well as the talking point and the stimulus for retrieval, not least in [...]
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Rosenshine’s principles of instruction (2012) offer 10 research-based strategies with suggestions for classroom practice. Here, I discuss how principles one and 10, relating to the importance of regular review for long-term learning, can be used in practice in the modern foreign languages (MFL) classroom – but many of these ideas are applicable across different subject [...]
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The phrase ‘cultural capital’ is everywhere. In 2013, the then Education Secretary Michael Gove famously quoted Gramsci, saying The accumulation of cultural capital – the acquisition of knowledge – is the key to social mobility. Gove went on to say, you will find children learning to read using traditional phonic methods, times tables and poetry [...]
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The Plymouth Oracy Project was designed to develop theoretical and pedagogical understanding of dialogic talk for learning amongst school staff, with a particular focus on improving the oracy development and educational outcomes of pupils falling into the ‘disadvantaged’ category. This article reports on the impact of the Plymouth Oracy Project, rather than the methods applied [...]
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This article introduces a free linguistic tool (developed in a collaborative project between University of Birmingham and the University of Nottingham and funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council grant reference AH/P504634/1), with suggestions for how it can be used in English classes to integrate the study of language and literature. It is commonplace [...]
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‘Cultural literacy’ seems to be a ubiquitous and controversial term in education at the moment. In relation to our curriculum and its aims, the ‘cultural’ part relates to empowering students with the knowledge they need to be able to access their culture and engage intelligently with discussions, debates and political issues, while ‘literacy’ refers to [...]
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What happens when writers and teachers work together in the writing classroom? And what happens when teachers are given opportunities to be writers through workshops led by professional writers? These practices are often encouraged by arts organisations such as the Arts Council, and by subject associations such as the United Kingdom Literacy Association. But there [...]
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Can more arts and creativity in primary schools improve children’s writing? Our research to address this question began at a time when primary schools were facing continuous pressure to raise writing standards and, simultaneously, struggling to maintain a broad and creative curriculum. Integrating arts with writing… Our strategy to integrate arts with writing coincided with [...]
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High-quality arts provision has the potential to build self-belief and confidence in young people (Royal Shakespeare Company, Tate and University of Nottingham, 2018). This article discusses findings from the ‘Young Arts Advocates Special School (YAASS)’ programme, which aimed to build experiences and self-confidence for students with special educational needs, through schools and artists engaging in [...]
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Schools are important in helping children to successfully engage with culture and cultural institutions, and the Henley Review of Cultural Education in English Primary Schools (DCMS, 2012) and the Cultural White Paper (DCMS, 2012) recognised this. However, research findings from around the world flag up challenges in building effective relationships between schools and cultural institutions [...]
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This article reports on the preliminary findings of a pilot project commissioned by Curious Minds, which linked two performance-based cultural partners (The Horse and Bamboo and Primed for Life) to two nursery schools in Lancashire. A research team from Manchester Metropolitan University worked in collaboration with Curious Minds to explore how collaborative partnerships between performing [...]
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We’ve recently finished analysing 6,000 responses from 14–18-year-old students. As part of a three-year research project, we asked students – through focus group interviews and a survey – about the arts in school: whether the arts subjects matter to them, what they learn and how they experience the teaching. One message came through consistently and [...]
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Many schools choose to engage in professional partnerships with artists and arts organisations, whether they be school residencies, individual artists working in school settings or venue-based school excursions and education programmes. There have also been many studies in the last couple of decades, both nationally and internationally, that overwhelmingly reveal the positive outcomes for students [...]
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At a time of increased focus on core subjects and shrinking school budgets (Cultural Learning Alliance, 2018), how can we make the case for taking children to museums and galleries to experience the power of object-based learning? Over the past 18 months, learning teams at the University of Cambridge Museums (UCM) and the National Gallery [...]
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The government’s Green Paper ‘Transforming children and young people’s mental health provisions’ (Department of Health and Department of Education, 2017) sets out the ambition that children and young people who need help for their mental health should be able to get it when they need it. The Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership (GMHSCP) [...]