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

Posted in Education Education Education

Twitter has once again made the news this week with the super injunction business. One of the great things about Twitter is the ability to get selected news streamed straight to you and then follow up when you can. So, I have been kept up to date with all the consultations DFE are having over curriculum reviews and responses to the Wolf report etc. You see, I still worry a lot about the threat to creative subjects in our school curriculum models, with this strangely retrospective suggested set of subjects being bandied about, which don’t offer the broad and balanced curriculum. My feelings about the E-Bac have already been recorded.
I failed the English Baccalaureate
Nothing has changed. This article in TES (printed this week) worries me: TES

Anyway, I have done the writing of letters and the sending of online consultation response and still feel frustrated at not having a voice. So, I was recently flicking through Hansard and trying to find out when the words “ art and design “ education might have been mentioned in parliament when I came upon a question posed to Mr Gove by Fiona McTaggart MP. It quoted the results of a NSEAD survey about the E-Bac effect on art and design departments. This got me thinking, MPs ask questions, can we try and have input there ?

I contacted my local MP Sharon Hodgson, and got an appointment to meet her. I invited Denise Taylor (Lord Lawson of Beamish School) and Ruth Robinson (Durham Gilesgate School) to join me. We all live in Sharon’s constituency. Sharon gladly gave us a chunk of time where we were able to put across our concerns and she was very supportive in letting us know how the shadow education team felt and what they were doing to revise their own policies whilst maintaining an informed and sensible argument against the proposed Coalition “reforms”. We also met Sharon’s assistant Sara Sproates, who suggested that we tried to come up with some parliamentary questions for Sharon to pose.

Sharon agreed to attend the 30th June NEATEN (North East Art Teacher/Educator Meeting) in Baltic: 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., to hear the concerns from teachers and to also meet the members of this thriving network. We added that we also wanted to extend an invitation to the Shadow Education Minister Andy Burnham, which Sharon supported. After which messages went to Andy’s admin team.

Shortly after this, Sharon’s secretary sent us an invitation to attend the launch of a new grassroots organisation, to be called Labour Teachers. Ruth and I travelled to the House of Commons on the 10th May and attended the launch meeting. The shadow labour education team was well represented and so were teaching unions and teachers. We had interesting input from both Barry Sheerman MP and Baroness Estelle Morris to start off, followed by a discussion and questions and then by Andy Burnham’s summing up of session and his vision for the way forward. After the meeting, Sharon introduced us to Andy and we had a good chat about why we were there, who we represented and what concerned us about the threat to creativity and art and design in the curriculum. We repeated our invite for Andy to attend the 30th June meeting and he promised to look into this further.I am very hopeful.

After this we were entertained, on the terrace of the House of Commons and in the Stranger’s Bar, by Sharon and Sara, and met lots of interesting people. This included Fiona McTaggart, who really was the person who (inadvertently) made me think it was viable to get our message across with the help of our MPs. Fiona and Sharon are so committed and so inspiring. They believe 100% in giving all children the same opportunities and will never accept a system which supports inequalities.

The visit ended with a midnight tour of the building, walking through the corridors where they go about the daily business, through the very chambers of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, with the discarded papers of the day still lying on the benches and into the Great Hall of Westminster itself. An incredible place steeped in memories and in the rich tapestry that is English history.Sharon and John (a charming and helpful Canadian intern) showed us round, and it was a unique living breathing history lesson which we will never forget.

Anyway, as it stands now, we hope to take part in the Labour Party review of policy- by sending our views and also getting NSEAD (National Society for Education in Art and Design) involved. We are gathering evidence about the effect of the E-Bac in schools (see the link from TES this week) and will use that to form some of the questions to put to Mr Gove. I feel cheered by the fact that TES reported this week that 79% of teachers thought he was doing a bad job. I think it would be 99% in the north east.

We are also working with what I guess is the “steering group” for NEATEN to plan our 30th June meeting. We want it to be an opportunity for art and design educators to come along and talk about what is happening in their schools (good and bad), for head teachers, who value and promote the subject, to come along and say why they see it as important in their school curriculum, for everyone to get together and realise that networks and communities can and will support each other in what are difficult and unpredictable times. NEATEN also continues to celebrate the good work going on in our schools and will be getting as involved as possible in all the educational opportunities coming our way from Baltic during the run up to the Turner Prize 2011.

Our meeting on the 30th June will start with a session on using Twitter, something that many would benefit from. Since our visit last week, Ruth and I have continued our discussion and debates with our new contacts via Twitter and also passed on news to north east colleagues through this.

I feel supported and inspired. I strongly believe that we have to look at our choices. Do we sit back and allow something that we believe in, and which we know works, be trampled on by new and untested initiatives (which hark to the past and not the future), or, do we stand up for what we believe in and create a strong message that resonates with people and makes them think, take stock of their own beliefs, and then makes them allies? I know what my answer will be.

Thanks to our wonderful parliamentary hosts Sharon, Sara and John, to Labour Teachers, to NEATEN and to you-for reading this.

Links: Labour Teachers
Sharon Hodgson
Fiona McTaggart



4675 days ago

well done on attending Labour Teachers. Good to see you there.

Denise Taylor

4675 days ago

It’s just fantastic to feel that somewhere, somehow, someone is listening. MASSIVE thanks to you and Ruth for making the journey and putting forward the creativity case. Long may the lobbying continue towards a curriculum we can believe in.


4675 days ago

I am an art teacher in the south west and heard about the north east group. Well, keep on fighting the fight, you folks don’t know how lucky you are. We seem to drift along and people are losing option numbers all over the place, and I even know a head of art who is now teaching RE, PHSE, and ICT and still being head of art.


4675 days ago

I would be a very narrow person without art in my school life and just to enjoy as a grown up who works in a tax office.

Simone Starling

4675 days ago

Good to read how the north east is being galvanised. Too easy to give up.

Cassie art teacher

4675 days ago

I wish we had a network where I teach. I would love to be involved. I think my MP would listen so maybe we all need to start writing letters and stuff. I think in the north you seem to have a good group there. I like what you have written about doing what you know is right.


4670 days ago

Gawd bless you all for fighting the fight. With my nose to the grindstone (New Head of Art) it’s so hard to keep up with the latest movers and shakers. We are so lucky to have you in our corner.

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