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

Posted in

I am so embarrassed not to have written a blog for so long- but, if I write about everything I get up to then I would probably have to sacrifice sleeping at night.

So, last weekend, I travelled to London to take part in #ARTConnects, a great initiative from Nick Corston of SteamCo. There were some excellent speakers and practitioners there, who all shared their belief in the power of the Arts, through the work that they do and through the advocacy that they promote. Here is my own speech, hope you enjoy……

‘You wouldn’t be at an event like this if you didn’t believe in the importance of the Arts, the power of the Arts and the value of the Arts.

I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t had the experiences that I had with the visual arts- through school- College- University- post graduate- in teaching and education and as an artist, and yes, I’m an artist, as many of you are – or dancers, musicians, actors, designers, producers and more. Of that we are proud, (and my higher education was free of course, no ridiculous fees to pay).

But, who’d want to be an art teacher now, especially when you read the headlines? Like the very recent BBC survey which found that 9 out of 10 schools have cut at least one arts subject by either reducing staffing or resources or time. Art and DT trainee teacher courses are under-recruiting year on year on. Because arts are becoming optional in some schools.

We need these subjects embedded in the curriculum. THEY SHOULD BE AN ENTITLEMENT. We all know their value in terms of enjoyment, self expression, self esteem, being human and the precious sense of well-being. But we also know the employability factors- the Creative and Cultural Industries are important, and pretty vital to a dodgy economy post Brexit – but where is that future creative workforce going to come from if the education pipeline is fractured? And where are the Arts teachers going to come from.? The teachers that were lauded in Ridley Scott’s magnificent BAFTA acceptance speech last week, where he said that ‘teaching is the most important of all professions?’

‘Now what I want is facts – teach these boys and girls nothing but facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else and root out everything else’ these are the words of Mr Thomas Gradgrind, the notorious school board superintendent in Dickens novel ‘Hard Times’, who is only concerned with hard facts and profitable enterprise. Of course, it’s fiction and written as long ago as 1856. But is it fiction?
Because Nick Gibb, Schools Minister, said this in 2016, ‘children need to learn facts and not follow joyless processes’, I kid you not. I suppose the Arts are just a joyless process then?

We have a Department for Education who have created a hierarchy of subjects and kicked the arts right down to the bottom of the list.

You also must remember that Article 31 of the United Nations Rights of the Child says that
‘Children have the right to relax and play, and to join in a wide range of cultural, artistic and other recreational activity“ but are you aware that the UK is currently ranked 156th in the latest ‘Kids Rights’ survey?

Teachers and educators here today, we must showcase and share good practice, as we are here today, and not be ashamed to spotlight where it isn’t happening, invest in our teachers and our training of teachers, is it right that on some 3 or 4-year primary teacher training courses that you get an average of 4 hours training in how to teach art? We also need to audit and perhaps update our own curriculum offer, involve parents and governors. Creatives should become governors, we need more of you active in governing bodies, we must also keep ourselves informed and up to date on all national campaigning, you can write and talk to your MP, write to the Prime Minister, write to the Chief Inspector of OFSTED.

And my advice to everyone here who works in a school is simple… professionally subversive.

Which takes me back to what I started with- why are we here? To pat ourselves on the back, or to get out there and do something? We are the good guys. We’re already doing it- so how do we get out there and change it for those who aren’t? That’s got to be the mission.

VERY IMPORTANTLY, we MUST ensure that young people don’t just experience the arts and culture, but that they actively take part and create their own, as participants. Kids are unique human beings- *they are not a piece of data*- they should sing, they should dance, they should twist, they should turn, they should rock and roll, they should imagine, and then script their stories and act them out, they should understand how music is made, make sounds and then compose for a purpose, they should use their hands to twist, to bend, to shape, to mould, to feel, to cut, to tear, to form, to join, to draw, to paint, to make, and they should explore and experience all those wonderful haptic moments which are essential to developing as a human being.

This is why I do what I do and why you do what you do- teachers work with young people- they are unique living breathing human beings……
And ……they are the future-

Please set them free.

I will end today with a quote from Maya Angelou “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” Remember this.

Thank you.’

Susan Coles
#ARTCONNECTS February 24th, 2018.




14 days ago

So lovely to read the words after seeing you on the live stream. Thanks for reminding us all that children are little humans and not robots.


11 days ago

Damned good speech. Keep them going. Weaken government hold on education.


2 days ago

Inspiring. Thanks. Good stuff.


1 day ago

What is wrong with the English government? Why is it going away from the directions of education in the rest of the UK and in the world? Why dont they wake up and smell the coffee? Thats why I am working abroad in art teaching at the moment. Forced out by government policies that danage the arts.

Leave a Comment

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


Blog Search

Follow me on Twitter

My Latest Work on Flickr