As a 21 (22 in 16 days, oi oi) year old girl who has been involved in the Arts her entire life, I have faced my fair share of battles with individuals who do not understand the Arts. I say they do not understand it because they display a sense of disrespect and ignorance. They are quick to criticize what they don’t understand. So, I’m here to explain why the Arts are so important. Hold tight, amigos…
People are quick to judge what they do not understand: Story-time. Quite recently, I attended a day at university which involves all trainee teaches on the course. We were discussing an issue and created an example of a student opting for GCSE Drama. Within seconds, another individual sniggered, making a joke out of the mere thought of a student choosing a performative option. How insecure do you have to be to make remarks against another person’s choices and abilities? I have to emphasise, this person knew nothing about us. It appeared his exposure to the arts was little and he was not able to comprehend why somebody would make the conscious decision to follow a creative pathway. I hope this blog reaches you someday so that you can become educated to the benefits that my subject offers and you can realise the significance of the Arts in a child’s education.
The Arts in the UK Education System: As I’m coming to the end of my Teacher Training course, following a degree in Drama Studies and Education Studies, I’ve done my fair share of research into how the Arts sit within Education and I can tell you now… it’s not comfortably. I have witnessed classes being cut, allocated time for subjects becoming fewer and opportunities for the study of a creative subject becoming incredibly slim. Now, ask yourself, who is at the heart of schooling? Who becomes the most affected by these decisions? Yep. Students. Kids. Individuals who have dreams. Children who flourish in the Arts for different reasons. The boy who is naughty in your maths class? He probably looks forward to having Drama once a fortnight because he has an outlet to be a great performer. The girl who is being pushed towards an academic future has aspirations of being a musical performer. The girl whose attendance isn’t great, she may not be the brightest, is incredible at drawing and has sketch books and portfolios that mean the world to her. Those who aren’t the ‘brightest’ academically? I’ve known them to be the strongest, most talented performers – to a standard others could only dream of.
What I’m getting at here is that not every student is destined to follow an EBacc influenced pathway. For any of you unsure, the EBacc is a GCSE performance measure which consists of the study of English, Maths, Science, History or Geography and a Language. Now, I’m not dismissing the fact that these are incredibly important, because they are. I’m arguing that the Arts are equally as important. Students who aren’t confident in these subjects are likely to rely upon a creative subject. We are all so different. We all have so many different strengths, talents and weaknesses. The beauty of mankind is that we are capable of fulfilling such a variety of roles. Yet some children are having that torn away from them. Former education secretary, Nicky Morgan, commented that the arts are not useful, that it limits children for their futures. Tell me, Ms Morgan, how often have you attended the theatre or a cinema? How many pieces of art have you come across in your life? How often do you listen to music? The Arts are not what is limiting children. What’s limiting them, is the gradual removal of subjects that can be offered to them.
‘It’s not a real subject’: Isn’t it? Enlighten me. How would you define what a ‘real subject’ is? Is it something that ticks boxes for you? Is it the link with your political standpoint? Is it linked to success rates? Because for me, every subject is a ‘real subject’. Each subject will be a strength for someone. There are people who love history, maths, English, Science, Geography, French, Technology, PE… and the Arts. There are so many successful people inhabiting this planet from so many backgrounds. A real subject is something that benefits any one individual in any which way.
‘You will be required to do a presentation/role-play/speech’… ‘oh-no’…: Every single interview I’ve ever been to has required me to engage in some form of presentation or role-play scenario. I’ve needed to demonstrate that I have confidence to do so. The Arts, Drama in particular, teach students vital life skills. It teaches them how to get up in front of people and absolutely smash a performance or a presentation. It teaches them to work in different groups, learning how to work with people they might not initially have chosen. It teaches them confidence. It teaches them skills which you will all use every single day. So don’t tell me Drama is pointless when it’s the main reason behind my personal successes. I have a First Class Degree. I’m days away from being a qualified Secondary teacher. I have been accepted for a management position within an education company. For someone who’s always followed ‘pointless subject’… I’m doing pretty damn well.
T.V. Movies. Theatre. Music. Fashion. Art. I can guarantee, if you’re reading this, you will have an interest in one of those areas. Chances are you have a Netflix account or a Spotify account, or Apple music or something with a designer label on it. None of those things would be available to you if the opportunities weren’t there for the creators. Think about what an influence these areas have on modern life before you make your criticisms.
Economy: According to the Independent (2016), ‘creative industries generate £84 billion a year for the UK economy, almost £10 million an hour. Now, it doesn’t take a genius to work this out… If we reduce opportunities and overlook the importance of the Arts, this figure is going to drop. The economy will be affected. You will be affected. Dreams will be affected. Futures will be affected. Companies will be affected. Generations will be affected. Creative industries are such a key driving force and there is so much potential out there that can’t be brought to light due to the struggle of having no chance to showcase it. I once knew of a student who opted to take GCSE music. The course was not continued. She then opted for GCSE Drama. She was refused. Her final destination for her option choices has resulted in Geography and Travel and Tourism. These are not her passions. This may be one more individual who has given up and lost hope in having an Arts-based future and is settling for something of zero interest to her. Would you be ok with that? I think not.
So then, I’ll wrap it up. What I’m trying to get across is that the Arts are receiving so much stick. They are disregarded as unimportant and not beneficial. Drama is not a discrete subject on the National Curriculum. If it wasn’t for the opportunity to study Drama, I’ll be honest – I probably wouldn’t have finished school and yet now, subjects are being cut left, right and centre. We are expected to continue with school plays, concerts, showcases, galleries, whilst at the same time, they continue to reduce our opportunities. But you know what? Those of us involved in the creative industries are so damn passionate. We do not go down without a fight. We see potential where others see a waste of time. We believe that every person has a right to follow the path that is suitable for them. Whether that is within Drama or music, maths or history. Please realise the importance and significance of the Arts and creative industries. Recognition is at the heart of this. We all deserve a chance to shine where we thrive the most.
People will always discriminate the Arts but the Arts do not discriminate.
(One final side note: If you’re one of these people that thinks all you do in Drama is ‘play games and act like a tree’… I’ve never been a tree in my life. I have however been the lead girl in Bugsy Malone. And yes, we do play games to warm us up and they’re bloody brilliant).