Welcome to the website of Susan M. Coles, Artist & Arts, Creativity & Educational Consultant.

Posted in Education Education Education

Did anyone see the Ice Age Art Show at the British Museum last summer? It was amazing, engaging and remarkable – how can we not wonder at the fact that human beings were making music carving a flute from an animal bone and creating artefacts and art forms up to 40,000 years ago? The arts are part of us as they are part of our history. It’s a very humbling thought. People were communicating through art thousands of years before developing spoken and written language. Art is eternal and we know that the Arts themselves are fundamental to our humanity. We are humans. We are not robots.

Art both inspires and ennobles us. It fosters creativity. It helps us all to express our values and our beliefs. It helps to build important bridges between cultures. And, what a language it is too, because all people speak it, it cuts across race, culture, social, educational and economic barriers.

Our educational system is undergoing rapid change as it rushes head first into a system which is untried and unpopular and which is creating a hierarchy of subjects …… and despite what people think the English Baccalaureate still exists and it still excludes the arts.

I know why the arts are important in our schools and visual art craft and design education in particular. It empowers our children to develop their own view of the world and to show and share that view. It allows them to express opinions, emotions, make statements and to wonder. It encourages children to be curious and I think we should all be curious. We would have no Alice in Wonderland story without curiosity. We must encourage our children to be constantly curious. This is a new world we are living in. Eliot Eisner sees an education in arts as “ preparing them for a contemporary society where they would be able to make judgements in the absence of rule to cope with ambiguity and to frame solutions to the problems we face”. It’s not just the what- it’s the why?

And the absence of rule is a welcome antidote to what’s happening today….
What is the point of school in 2013? It’s becoming an educational factory processing workers to feed into our corrupt capitalist system. I see children seated in classrooms according to the level they are on. I don’t hear their names anymore I hear them addressed as target group one or target group two. I sit through meetings where the word “child” is rarely mentioned amongst the dominant talk of goals, targets and testing. Thank the Lord for Educating Yorkshire on Channel 4.

The coalition Government and it’s OFSTED arm are obsessed with statistic and league tables. It’s all about outcomes and the ability to predict them, memorising facts by rote- it’s about constant testing and levels- about right or wrong answers and being judged accordingly……rigour rigour rigour. But nowhere at this point in time with a new national curriculum model and proposed changes to GCSEs is it about applying that knowledge creatively. In the word of WB Yeats EDUCATION IS NOT THE FILLING OF A PAIL, BUT THE LIGHTING OF A FIRE

And it’s not just about the arts allowing children to be themselves and own their own learning it’s about thriving and not just surviving in the digital age. We need to teach digital and visual literacy as a priority- children are in a world where they see many hundreds of images every day. How to we teach them to navigate and evaluate them? To use them to communicate? That’s a hugely transferable skill- in both education and life. A strong and important reason for embedding the visual arts in the school curriculum. Because art will help them to become viewers consumers and critics of visual information. It will allow them to create and design meaningful visual information themselves- in both expressive and innovative ways.

But art in schools does something else too- it protects our own psyche, it makes us all individual, it gives life multiple meanings, it gives intrinsic pleasure and it allows the F word to come back into the classroom.F-U-N.

And if we don’t win with those arguments what about the Creative Industries? Britain’s second biggest earner! Whether it in graphic design or the games industry, Grand Theft Auto is the biggest selling computer game of all time in the first three days of its release…. where are the designers and the innovators, the Jonny Ives and the Stella McCartneys, the Nick Parks and Sam Taylor Woods going to come from if we are not developing them in our schools? As its stands, probably from China. where at least they have recognised the need to increase the teaching of art and creativity!

But you see, I don’t really think we need to justify the arts in schools- because I talk to kids in schools and I do this everywhere and every week, I talk to kids and I listen to them. Most of them like to sing and dance and move and wriggle and create and act out stories, to make music, to draw and paint and fold and crease and twist and sew and thread and touch and feel and weave and plait and mould and form and invent and create an outcome which they never knew existed and which might not exist again. Creativity, originality…. and that’s just magic.



3773 days ago

Well I read this and have some faith that people know the reasons for making art and stuff. I am worried though as in my school the chances to do an art course get less….. Too many other options so kids all mixed up. Parents are too.


3772 days ago

good stuff.

Claire Stobbart

3771 days ago

not that anyone in the government will listen to you but well done for continued and passionate support for the Arts.

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