A work of art

ArtArts education offers people of all ages an alternative language to better understand themselves and the world in which they live. A language that crosses socio-economic boundaries and provides young people with transferable life skills, that are often undervalued and certainly underestimated. The place of arts education in primary and secondary schools is as important and relevant in today’s society, however, literacy and numeracy and governors and educators ignore the arts at their peril.

Through arts education young people develop their capacity to understand and navigate complex situations and become better equipped to manage personal and professional relationships. Through the arts, students learn to express themselves and communicate more effectively with others, developing positive working relationships, learning to articulate a vision, making informed decisions, exercising self discipline, setting goals and taking responsibility for quality performance. The value of this work is immeasurable, enabling young people to develop an alternative perspective of life through challenging assumptions, breaking down barriers and embracing new opportunities.

Engaging with communities

Arts education provides schools with a vehicle for developing meaningful parental engagement and building community cohesion. Art exhibitions, creative workshops, music and drama performances all provide low risk invitations to families, which can encourage many parents to engage with teachers and schools for the first time. Many hard to reach families and parents who are often most in need and lack the confidence to support their children in literacy and numeracy, creative programmes can provide the first time they are able to support their children.

The arts therefore can increase their likelihood of engaging positively in their children’s learning, thus raising their children’s overall academic achievement.

Creative programmes can offer a counter balance to testing and while their impact on academic performance is more difficult to measure their value in terms of cognitive development and emotional literacy is tangible. For many vulnerable students these projects, for the first time, give them the opportunity to excel.

An emotional outlet
The arts can be inspirational and stimulating and for a lot of young people including two young offenders from Swinfen Hall. Their arts project gave them an emotional outlet and a sense of peace and escape from an environment of considerable challenge. One young person said: “I have loads of ideas in my head and art helps me to get them out”, while another stated that the involvement in the arts project “takes me to a place where I can forget”.

The Swinfen Hall project was funded by a grant from NADFAS, an arts education charity formed in 1968 by Patricia Fay OBE. The aims of the charity are the advancement of arts education and appreciation and the preservation of our artistic heritage. With over 350 member societies, run by local volunteers, the 92,000 members in the UK and mainland Europe support the fine and decorative arts through a variety of educational projects, gallery and museum visits, lectures and volunteering opportunities such as Church Recording, Heritage Volunteering, Young Arts and Church Trails.

NADFAS launched Young Arts in 1973 specifically to provide exciting opportunities for young people, in order to broaden their horizons through their involvement in and experience of the creative and visual arts. NADFAS encouraged its societies to provide Young Arts opportunities for young people either by offering fully or part funded projects or through the establishment of Young Arts Groups. These groups for 8-18 year olds were affiliated to a local NADFAS society and organised arts related activities for its young members.

In 2010 alone NADFAS Young Arts funded activities involving 20,000 children and young people and offered grants and funding of £171,000. In many cases grants were given for educational visits, visiting lecturers, artists in residence and models for life drawing classes. Grants supported local and national arts events, including the Big Draw, and this year a number of societies are supporting projects based around the cultural Olympiad.

Local activities for all
The work in educational institutions has covered the full spectrum from nursery schools to supporting students continuing into further and higher education.

Each of the projects is an arts related activity for an individual or group in the local area. Each project is unique, its format created by local needs, resources, facilities and funds. Some projects have supported work in hospices and museums, and have involved a number of schools working together. Society sponsorship ranges from £50 to £2,000, however, often the societies grants become a catalyst for further funding or matched funding from other grant giving bodies or the NADFAS grants committee.

School based projects are wide ranging and have offered young people the opportunity to work with practicing artists on a variety of creative and cultural projects. This direct work with artists have given students the opportunity to make contact with positive new role models, learn new creative and technical experiences and explore and take risks within a safe context. The feedback from these projects shows how inspired the students were and how they grew in confidence, artistic skills and ability, gaining insight into the arts world that may lead to new career pathways and a continued interest in the arts into adulthood. It is hoped this interest will enrich their lives as well as helping them to meet the requirements of employers and benefitting the wider community.

Project examples
Some projects involved students working to enhance their school environment through the production of murals and exhibitions. In Honiton, the local society worked with staff pupils and governors to create a mural to welcome visitors to the school, with all 220 pupils in the school designing and painting a 15cm square tile reflecting their personal perception of their school. One student in year 6 stated that when he went on to “big school” a little bit of him would always remain in his old school.

In Ribble and Craven working with primary age students, many with English as a second language, on a Bug Project brought together the arts and sciences in a project raising awareness of climate change. Following a bug hunt and an afternoon looking at and handling stick insects, a praying mantis, snails, tarantulas and scorpions the students studied the depiction of insects in arts from earliest Egyptian to contemporary drawings, before producing their own studies, which were exhibited at a local gallery.

In some cases groups have provided equipment for infant and nursery schools and at the other end of the age range two apprenticeships have been offered to an apprentice mason and glazier at Salisbury Cathedral.

Many schools have been supported in raising aspirations through running competitions in photography and painting. Here it has been wonderful for young people to see their work in “real” presentations that have attracted the interest of the local community and local press.

Secondary age students have benefitted from grants to support their extended studies with funding for laptop computers and digital cameras to enable them to keep photographic records of their practical work

While the work of Young Arts has been primarily based in mainstream schools some excellent work has been undertaken with vulnerable young people like those at Swinfen Hall.

All of these young people have gained a positive experience of the arts, learning how the arts can bring different people together, creating links with different communities and encouraging them all to feel and sense of pride in themselves, their school and their local community.

Positive feedback

The feedback from schools is very positive. These projects enhance the curriculum and provide opportunities for young people and schools to benefit from working with excellent practitioners able to inspire and engage staff, students and families, and offer a new way of working and learning.

The partnership between NADFAS and schools is a thriving one as both sectors recognise the importance of investing in arts education for tomorrow’s workplace.

In a climate where the benefits of English and mathematics are seemingly more obvious it is all too easy to overlook the multitude of educational benefits provided by arts education. The arts are the second biggest revenue generator for the Treasury after financial services. The Arts Council states that between 1997-2006 the creative economy grew faster than any other sector, creating two million jobs and accounting for £16.6 billion in exports.

As such a valuable element of any broad and balanced curriculum it is imperative that school leaders invest in the arts and in their students. The arts deserve high level resourcing, outstanding teachers, quality materials and adequate curriculum time.

For more information

For more information about NADFAS Young Arts contact volunteering@nadfas.org.uk or visit www.nadfas.org.uk

Benefits of arts education
In addition to economic benefits of investment in arts education for students in the primary and secondary sectors there are a plethora of social and intellectual benefits:
•    encouraging self expression and self awareness
•    building confidence and self esteem
•    thinking creatively and conceptually
•    problem solving
•    increasing motivation and improving behaviour
•    developing organisational skills
•    being able to work collaboratively and independently
•    developing multiple learning styles
•    building maturity and appreciation
•    developing observational skills
•    raising global awareness and respect for other cultures
•    promoting literacy through analysis and interpretation
•    increasing enjoyment and fun in learning
•    developing spatial and visual skills
•    encouraging qualitative awareness
•    seeing different perspectives
•    openness to subtlety, nuance, flexibility and imagination

NADFAS Church Trails
June Graveson, a member of the National Young Arts Team who looks after the Young Arts Group, tells about her experiences:
“I came to Church Trails for Children via my Area Young Arts Project ‘Take One Book - The Luttrell Psalter’, which was being funded by Grantham & District DFAS. The Psalter was commissioned in 1330 by the lord of the manor, Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, and the original manuscript can be found in the British Library.

“The project offered year 5 and year 6 pupils at a local Lincolnshire primary school the opportunity to discover the medieval world of a neighbouring village. They explored the pages of a facsimile copy of the Luttrell Psalter to discover calligraphy, illuminated letters, line fillers, rural life in medieval Lincolnshire, musical instruments and ‘babewyns’ (medieval monsters or grotesques). They made paper and books; drew their own babewyns; investigated early musical instruments and danced the farandole. The final session was to be at the Church of St Andrew’s at Irnham, Lincolnshire – the home of the Luttrell Psalter. The children were going to make brass rubbings of Sir Geoffrey Luttrell’s son, Sir Andrew who died in 1390.

“But what was the rest of the class to do while small groups were rubbing the brass memorial? ‘What a pity there isn’t a NADFAS Church Trail,’ I heard myself saying. There was only one solution – find out how to make one for St Andrew’s Church. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and was grateful for all the support I received from the Church Trails team.

“The day was a huge success with members of Grantham DFAS helping out as accompanying adults, the church warden got involved as did the Church patron Sir Simon Benton Jones, who invited the children into the Manor House.

“The Rev Margaret Barton, priest in charge, was delighted! She welcomed the children to the church and set the scene from the pulpit, telling the pupils that Sir Geoffrey Luttrell would be surprised to see a woman priest there. We handed over the trail on the day of our visit to Sir Simon Benton Jones and the priest in charge, who is so pleased to know about NADFAS Church Trails for Children.”