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

Posted in Education Education Education

Everyone is on a never ending learning curve and I always know that I am. My own personal knowledge and experience as to how the UK Parliament operates has been greatly enhanced and extended since we set up the All Party Parliamentary Group on Art, Craft, and Design education.

The first thing to note is that you can go and knock on the door of your own MP and ask to have a conversation. Those first conversations with my own MP, Sharon Hodgson, led us both to get together and try and find qualifying members for the APPG. This was done with the support of NSEAD and every member and supporter who was able to influence their own MPs. Sharon also used her contacts within Parliament, including the House of Lords. You can’t beat local knowledge! You can’t beat a good MP either.

I have always tended to be cynical about The House of Lords, but I have now seen that this platform is one which can influence policy and allow time for debate, which does not always happen in the House of Commons. And, the other signiificant part of this new knowledge is that the House of Lords won’t change dramatically after each election. Like many people I am living in fear of a very messed up and confusing Parliamentary set up after the 2015 election.

So, let’s go back to the APPG, firstly look at our mission statement at this link:
“The group believes that art, craft and design education is essential to the economy and to the cultural, spiritual, creative and social wellbeing of all; that it empowers individuals, enabling them to engage with our rich visual and cultural heritage, express themselves and become visually literate and perceptive; and that access to high quality art, craft and design education is an entitlement for everyone.”
and look at the members on that list. The Earl of Clancarty is a very valuable and much appreciated vice chair. He speaks as an artist, a politician and as a parent, and has been instrumental this week in setting up and leading a two and a half hour debate in the House of Lords which focussed on the Arts in education.

Myself and NSEAD have been busy pulling together “evidence” from all the different artforms to help to give the speakers the information they needed. The Lords libarary also produced a very helpful briefing paper. The debate was a powerful set of advocacy statements from people who really do care about what the current government educational policies are doing to arts education. They spoke from the heart, which is what I need to hear and to read. Politicians can talk but politicians need to be convincing to capture my vote.

Rather than clog up the blog with soundbites and quotes, I would invite you to scroll through the debate yourself:
and, after reading it, take heart that we are not alone. The Lord’s government Education minister (Lord Nash) did not respond convincingly at the end of this debate, an attempt to refute statistics can easily be matched and his usual cut and paste comments about how the government supports the Arts in education, does little to convince those of us who are hearing and seeing the stories about the marginalisation of the subjects. I was pleased to hear Baroness Jones of Whitchurch talk about how the Labour Party would offer an alternative approach, where schools would have to embed the Arts in their curriculum models to be seen as successful. You might want to find out more about this group too, the Labour Arts Alliance: where you can read her blog on the importance of the Arts.

God knows but I wouldn’t even be writing this if I had not had the lifeline handed to me in my school days. I started to write a blog about Nicky Morgan’s recent STEM speech but realised that it wasn’t saying anything that other people had already said and decided instead to focus on the postives by writing about the debate. In this timely debate, speakers refer many times to the Education Secretary’s mistaken speech, and that makes me feel so much better about it all. It was an attack on the Arts and Humanities, and ignored every argument and statistic supporting the importance growth of the cultural and creative industries. We asked InSEA (International Socoety for Education through Art) to write a letter in response to this. Their letter is superb, and also very moving. Thanks to Jenny Evans for this idea. Here is the link to the letter, read, enjoy, save and share:
I never really did believe that Michael Gove had gone, he has just been smoothly replaced with another Tory clone. It was lovely to get recent emails and messages from my own ex students who valued their study of Art at school and who were furious to read this.

David Laws criticised Michael Gove’s policies this last week and that makes me wonder why he waited so long to do this? I still feel as if the education policies of the past four and a half years have been like watching a swarm of greedy locusts attack a field of healthy and still growing crops.

Anyway, I need to conclude now and offer my usual apology for a long delayed blog. I just get wrapped up in so many interesting things these days. My thanks go to everyone who supports the APPG, who sent information to help brief the speakers, who spoke in the debate, who tweeted and re-tweeted the quotes and the links (thank you Sir Ken Robinson, you really did help to spread the word). My biggest thanks go to the teachers in my life who opened my eyes to what art can do for a person, and who gave me my voice.


Kelly T

3380 days ago

Moments like this allow us to transcend the crap thrown at us every single day by this government.


3377 days ago

At least someone is listening to us. Good to read all this online and see the work you and the NSEAD and INSEA are all doing.

Leave a Comment

To post a comment please enter a name and a message then press the preview button before submitting your comment.