Why Performing Arts subjects should stay in the curriculum.
Throughout 2016, there was an ongoing petition within the government debating whether performing arts subjects such as dance drama and musical theatre should be removed from the curriculum in maintained schools (government-funded schools). After much debate, the government's response was to continue with performing arts as a subject in schools. However, my question is, why was this considered initially?
For people who are uninterested in, or not familiar with performing arts, this would seem like a valid argument, as they are unaware of the importance the training is, not only to educate, but also to develop soft skills that are useful throughout life in any career path. Performing arts training provides confidence, allows creativity and improves soft skills that are essential in business and interview scenarios etc. To anyone outside of the performance world, dance and drama are considered useless because they are not academic and will not be appealing to future employers.
In this essay, I am aiming to compare and explore the different arguments on whether to keep performing arts on the curriculum, and give reasons to support the government's conclusion of continuing performing arts.
With the growth of population across the country and the astonishing number of students, graduating from university with the highest qualifications, competition is at its peak. Therefore becoming highly academic and employable is every students aim. However, it is now also the expectation of every teacher in every school. As a result of this, the pressure to revise heavily, and take relevant subjects to 'be the best' is immense. Both gramma and state schools are continuing to push their students further with education but this isn't always a good thing. Some students are very good at working under pressure and it enables them to excel, yet some students start to crumble and shy away from the task at hand the more they are told they aren't doing enough. This is why I believe schools need to be equip with subjects that allow the students to be creative, active and to take a break from such academic and stressful subjects. Exercise has been proven to increase brainpower and by participating in a subject such as dance, P.E. and drama, it will help the students become more focussed in their lessons and feel re-energised. Not every student is academic and will benefit from having something they feel they are good at, and more confident in doing. However, people may not want the arts subjects on the curriculum because they do not think it is worth giving billions for pounds to teach children to dance, act and draw, when the industry is extremely difficult to succeed. This has meant that in some schools these subjects aren't taught. Last year The Guardian released some scary facts and figures relating to the drop in the Arts. The number of arts teachers in schools has fallen by 11% since 2010 and in schools where a subject has been withdrawn, drama and performance has dropped by 23% .Others believe we could spend more money improving the subjects that will improve the economy and create more jobs and more money for the country. However, the arts is a huge economy that provides millions of jobs and generated billions of pounds. Without arts training, this would not be possible. We need young people to be educated in this otherwise a huge amount of money and jobs would be lost.
'It's no wonder cities big and small clamor for an arts economy: it is an incredibly powerful and trusted economic engine.' – huffingtonpost.com
To perform you have be confident, you have to have the skills to stand before hundreds of people and remember lines, remember routines and perform them to the best of your ability. This doesn't always come naturally to people. Confidence in young people is scarily low. With so many teenagers struggling with body image and social anxiety, it's about time facilities are put in place to try and conquer this. By being involved in dance and drama, students are actively involved in something that is tackling this. If dance and drama is introduced to them early on, confidence is built gradually, meaning they will be able to stand up in class and present with confidence. These soft skills that are worked on also are useful when in interviews. Students will come across happy and sure of themselves, speaking with certainty and standing out from others because of the element of performance they bring. Dance and drama involves teamwork and friendship. There are no other subjects that create a stronger bond between a class than performing arts. Of course, there are moments of teamwork in all subjects, for example, when you work in groups to create a project or complete and experiment, but with constant contact with each other in dance, physically supporting each other and performing alongside each other; it builds trust and love like nothing else. Thus, these subjects create an area students can go to feel safe and happy, something they won't experience in other subjects. These sot skills are vital to young people. By applying dance and drama into primary schools I believe children will grow up to become very open, accepting, and confident young adults. However, it seems that this isn't being enforced. The number of five- to 10-year-olds who engaged in dance activities was down from 43% in 2008-09 to 30% in 2013-14.This is a shocking figure that needs to be changed. Young people need to experience all forms of creativity and expression to have a well-rounded education.
The arts council invest thousands of pounds into the arts, whether that's funding new theatre businesses or playwrights to giving young people a chance to train professionally. This shows that they are incredibly passionate about making sure the arts are involved in children's lives. The website includes many essays, articles and studies on why this kind of practical and creative learning is essential for young people. Anne Wood has posted a study on how much creativity and the arts in T.V, influences children's learning. She says "Children who are paying close attention to the creativity on television and are engaged imaginatively with children's programs, are not passive. They are taking their first steps towards artistic understanding." She argues why this creativity be stopped so early on into the education system when it could be so beneficial.
'Art is integral to life. It enhances it. It civilises and helps build a rounded personality'. – John Major
Many people believe that the arts shouldn't be kept on the curriculum because of the fact they aren't academic subjects. In each subject there is an element if written work and written assessment. In dance for example the students study two professional works, of which they have to compare and contrast in terms of staging and choreography. They study the technical side of performance such as the lighting and sound design of which they are also tested on in GSCE papers. They then have to apply this knowledge when creating their own solos based on these professional works. The solo will indicate to the teachers how much they have understood about these two pieces as well as what they have written In the exams. This is a very academic task. Being able to interpret and adapt material that a student has created themselves to replicate and resemble the works is challenging. The same with drama, students are tested on the practitioner they have learnt about and how they all compare and contrast to one another. To then interpret the techniques used and why the practitioners use them uses imagination and understanding of things such as time periods, historic events and emotions. On the other hand, people may believe that these subjects are academic, however, they might not think that there is the right balance between practical classes and coursework classes. Even though the majority of their work is marked on the practical side of things, some people think that it should be a half and half spilt. Meaning they want more of the coursework to count towards their grade. This could work well in schools, and mean that the subjects are more likely to stay, however this could mean that the less academically inclined students my struggle, and their grades become lower than they might have been if their practical was marked. This puts those student ore at risk of being unemployable, and their talent not being recognised.
As of the petition and debate about keeping the arts in schools the government have now changed the examinations in dance and drama. They now include more professional works, learning more set phrases to test skills such as musicality and have increased the difficulty in the exam papers. This now shows that the subjects are worthy of their place in the curriculum and are definitely academic subjects that should be treated and looked upon as such.
"GCSEs and A levels in these subjects have been reformed, as they have in many other subjects. From September 2016, schools will be teaching new GCSEs in music, dance and drama and new AS and A levels in music and in drama and theatre."- Petitons – UK Government and Parliament
Some children have a natural talent for the arts. Some children find a love for it the day they step into a studio. This passion is the way to succeed in any business. If a student has a great passion for science and discovery, they will go onto university to study and do well at that subject because they care about it. It's the same with an arts subject. However the MP Nicky Morgan has very strong views on young people 'making the wrong decisions.'
"It takes a pretty confident 16-year-old to have their whole life mapped out ahead of them - then the arts and humanities were what you chose. Because they were useful for all kinds of jobs. Of course now we know that couldn't be further from the truth, that the subjects that keep young people's options open and unlock doors to all sorts of careers are the STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and maths.... ...too many young people are making choices age 15 which will hold them back for the rest of their lives".–Nicky Morgan MP.
Statements like this from Nicky Morgan MP are not only insulting to thousands of highly skilled, hard working teachers and arts practitioners, it shows a real lack of understanding from the Government about how people learn as individuals and how the arts can actually be used to enhance the STEM subjects. One thing that can't be denied, is that dance and drama can help in all subjects. Using the muscle memory can be a great way to remember facts and figures for anything you may be learning. In history, for example, it is very common for teachers to conduct class play's or quick drama tasks to help the students understand who's who, and the events which took place. Adding in this element of fun can really be useful to engage the children and help them to focus. By having a quick outburst of energy to get the blood flowing to the brain it will help children to think, concentrate and learn. Also by learning chants and songs to remember anything from maths equations to geography key words it's a great technique to ensure the children can apply this information at any time, especially in exams. If the government were to ever removed the arts, this learning technique should play a vital part in education, to, not only aid the more practical and visual learners but to aid all students in all subjects.
Another reason why there may be an argument for removing the subjects, is that many students do not enjoy participating because they feel embarrassed and awkward and don't want to do it. However, this is exactly why the subject needs to be in place. Students are seeing dance and drama as silly, and embarrassing, because children aren't educated to know that it's completely acceptable to do this and no one is going to criticise or judge you for it. I knew many people who felt so uncomfortable with performing, but unfortunately it was mainly the boys. They all had a fear of being stereotyped negatively. This is a social construct that needs to be eradicated and the only way to do that is for the world to familiarise itself with performing arts and learn to accept it.
The outcome of last year's debate was to keep the performing arts in the curriculum. Their response to the petition was:
The Government believes all pupils should have access to an excellent, well-rounded education and the arts are central to this. There is no plan to remove performing arts from the school curriculum.
However, along with keeping the arts, they are going to make some small changes that will improve the arts in schools.
"We are clear that arts education should be every bit as rigorous as the rest of the school curriculum and we have strengthened the national curriculum in these subjects and reformed the music and art GCSEs and A levels to make sure this is the case.
"For 2015-16, we are providing £109m to support music, art and cultural education projects – an increase of £17m from last year – allowing thousands more pupils to benefit from a wide range of enriching activities."
The government understands the importance and relevance of the performing arts and how it benefits children of all ages with soft skills to prepare them for work and social situations. Although not everyone was on board with the outcome and may still believe that it's a waste of money by funding the arts, I think it shows that we should care about the well-rounded balance that pupils need to do well in life, to become confident young people who are understanding and accepting of everyone. I think the points I have made have explained and justified why this was the right decision for the Government. The arts have been proven to benefit the learning and creativity of children, and will help them with all aspects of life, building stronger relationships and self-confidence. I am glad to see the government making more effort to support performance and am sure it will make a huge difference across the country. If these subjects were eradicated, I hate to think what the world would look like without the vibrancy of the arts.