The Power of Cultural Learning was a talk originally given at the Local Education Partnership ‘Big Picture’ event by Gill Peck on 24 May 2016.
The partnership believes that art and culture make life better, help to build diverse communities and improve our quality of life and is a call for the art, culture and education sectors to work together in offering a consistent and high quality art and cultural education for all children and young people. Gill is the Head Teacher of Putnoe Primary School and one of the founding members of The Culture Challenge.
“We are living in exciting times, a time of change (and I’m not talking about two tier education – it’s much more exciting than that!). No, collectively we are poised to drive change, to make a difference … to make a difference to the lives of children and young people in Bedford Borough.
We know what the challenges are – put quite simply its somehow ensuring that the children and young people of Bedford Borough are given the opportunities they need to prosper, making sure that they will find out about themselves and explore numerous cultural avenues that will empower them to work out exactly where their cultural interests lie.
To achieve this, and it sounds very simple but, all we have to do is to give children regular and frequent opportunities to participate in, and go to see dance, music, art, theatre – the rest is down to them to choose what they like and what they don’t – they will choose to experience things on their own terms.
It’s never too late to engage with the arts but I would have to say, in my opinion, by the time young people get to the point of taking their GCSE/A Levels the opportunity to harness the power of cultural learning and use it to provide the building blocks on which children and young people can prosper is almost too late.
Children are more likely to know what they want to learn, and how to learn it, if they experience a curriculum that celebrates their various talents, not just a small range of them.
The process needs to start from the first day of their school life and be a seamless journey of discovery until their last day of schooling. By that point, children will have been exposed to a wealth of carer prospects that the arts present.
As Barack Obarma said, “the future belongs to young people with an education and the imagination to create.”
There is a wealth of research to support the claim that engagement with the arts improves overall attainment – but much more than that – the arts speak to the parts of children’s being which might otherwise be untouched.
Apart from the positive impact that the arts can have on the life of a school just imagine how grey the world would be if not for the beauty of a Monet painting, a Beethovan symphony, a Shakespeare play, a performance of the Nutcracker or a Jacqueline Wilson book.
Taking the time to appreciate this beauty is what makes us human, and it’s a very important quality to hang on to, especially in these days of edicts from government.
It is through our literature, our art, drama and dance that we tell the story of our past and we express our hopes for the future.
Much more than that – artists give our children the gift of their magnificent example – showing them that if they dream big enough, and work hard enough, and believe in themselves, that they can do and achieve uncommon things in their lifetime – why would anyone want to deprive children of that?
Much more than that – the power of the arts is to remind us what we each have to offer, and what we all have in common; to help us understand our history and imagine our future; to give us hope in moments of struggle and to bring us together when nothing else will.
It’s why we are all here today – why wouldn’t we want to deliver an education that can change a young person’s sense of the wider world around them, open up possibilities for their future that may have previously seemed outside of their grasp.
In the end it’s all about children finding fulfilment in their lives, that their lives add up to something, that they have a purpose and have meaning and that they are feeling they are finding their own course in life, one that matters to them and to other people.”