This blog was spurred on by Ruth’s recent blog – ‘What is the future for dance in early years’ and two good news stories for me. The first was a fantastic dance production by Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures at The Lowry in Salford and the second an article in The Guardian about Gove’s inclusion of the arts in GCSE subjects.
In Salford, the professional dance company selected 24 local boys, (from about 600 applicants) with talent and enthusiasm for dance to be part of the ensemble performance on stage with professionals. These boys had to learn the dance, work collaboratively to contribute to some of the choreography and become professional performers as part of the company, telling the adapted story of ‘Lord of the Flies’ for an expectant and paying audience. It was high quality dance and storytelling, hugely inspirational and demonstrated sheer energy of these young lads and their palpable potential, whatever they do next.
Some of these boys will go on to become dancers or choreographers and maybe community artists in their neighbourhoods. For some it was the kind of school they always wanted to go to, non stop moving, creating, dancing all day, inspired by strong male role models to be the best they can be, a hive of physical creative collaboration – which may make the classroom seem a bit dull on return from the holidays. It was fantastic to see the school head teachers in attendance as they saw the boys anew up on stage, starring and holding their own in this incredible powerful professional performance. I was reminded of the power of arts to inspire, galvanise and transform how we see ourselves.
This is why it is crucial to our children that the arts remain part of our education system, for all. Not everyone will end up starring in a musical and nor should they but the arts offer such engagement and immeasurable creative skills that cannot be ignored. Alan Davey, Chief Executive of Arts Council for England, claims a small but important victory on Michael Gove’s decision not to cut the arts as subjects for GCSEs.
How does this link all the way to our very youngest learners? How is creative education relevant for them? I believe it will be even more important than for previous generations. Our government, our country and the global village we are part of will need independent, motivated, innovative thinkers and creators for future developments of our health, education, arts and economy.
We are no longer preparing for a majority future workforce of factory and agricultural workers, the nature of jobs and employment is changing and will continue to do so as these early years children grow up. More and more individuals now work across a variety of sectors, including running their own small business and part time jobs, it is rare for people to have one job or even one role for their entire working life. Employment is more diverse and flexible and has to meet the needs of growing markets.
One of the important and fastest growing areas of the global economy is the Creative Industries. Those fields which trade in creativity, knowledge and information which in 2013 included knowledge based products and services (technology and science) home improvement and digital healthcare.
The prediction is the UK will be the global leader in this field (Including marketing, design and publishing, as well as architecture, arts, craft, fashion, games, music, and TV and film) by 2025! The children in your care will be around 14/15 by then, selecting their GCSEs and career choices. The new generation are creating their futures now.
These future professionals will need to be self initiated, creative, independent thinkers and collaborators, who will continue with lifelong learning. That means there is a lot of neurological groundwork (strong brain connections) to lay down that provides important foundations in a creative 21st Century skills set. This includes skills and aptitudes such as curiosity, enquiry, innovation, invention, research and exploration, collaboration, perseverance, experimentation, reflection, resourcefulness and resilience - Guy Claxton's 4 Rs of Learning Power and STEM/21st Century Skills
All these need to be experienced as learners in their early years to make synaptic connections between areas of the brain, making them stronger and firmer and natural ways of problem solving and learning. Surely we have a responsibility to support our children in their crucial brain development? This is why I am worried with the suggestion from Michael Wilshaw, that teacher led schooling is the best environment for two years olds. I understand the need to help children to achieve; yet if you squash the rich fertile environment of creative and self initiated play too early in a child’s development, you will affect the growth of nerve networks and neurological connections that form the bedrock of an individual’s thinking and predisposition to learning for life.
Earlyarts Patron Sir Ken Robinson reminds us;
“Education is not a linear process of preparation for the future: it is about cultivating the talents and sensibilities through which we can live our best lives in the present and create the future for ourselves.”
Our children are creating their futures right now and we are reminded of the self discovery in education and not just the why or tested outcome. Young children are constantly developing who they are as they learn and they have a preference for sensory and ‘full bodied’ learning style. This seamlessly connects the physical, cognitive and emotional aspects all involved in learning and developing particularly at crucial fertile stages of neurological growth during the early years
So back to Ruth’s image of a child playing in a box. Consider the future brain connections being made and what possible future might be in store for them? They could become an architect, a playground designer, art & health therapist, choreographer, game creator, film director or maybe a luxury pet carrier designer to the celebrities!
But to Mr Gove and Mr Wilshaw – it’s just playing with a box. Please pay attention boys!
If we fail to include creativity, in all its forms, as a crucial part of the pedagogy of our education system we will be ill equipped to meet our best future and most importantly, we will have let our children down.
"I am a passionate advocate for creative learning and education whatever your age. Most of my work is through dance and learning actively through our bodies and movement play."