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

Posted in Hope for the Future

I have been up to lots of things, including a lot of BIG DRAW activities but this blog will be a chance to have a look at my “script” for my slot at the iJADE 2012 Conference. That’s the International Journal of Art and Design Education by the way! I only had 15 minutes so I knew that I had to make impact with words and with images. This text lacks the images, so I’m also posting up a PDF of the presentation. Anyway, it went down well with the international audience, despite it’s focus on the problems in England. I was also the warm up act for Shirley Brice Heath but she very cleverly adapted her presentation to pick up my theme, for which I am very grateful.

I must say I had an amazing two days and met so many new people as well as catch up with others. Listening to people presenting their research topics was both uplifting and inspiring. From all over the world to the city of Liverpool, the building we were in at JMU was standing in the shadow of the RC Catherdral and the city itself was decked with the Art of the 2012 Biennale. What a treat! Well done Liverpool John Moores, iJADE team and NSEAD team. Okay, here is the presentation text.

“A room full of people in a city of England, which is currently celebrating creativity in its wonderful Biennale- and a room full of people for a reason. What brings us all together? What makes us a part of all of this? We come from different places and we do different things but there is a force in this room which brings people together. This is our love for Art Craft and Design. Our love for creativity and the need to show and to share it’s worth and value. Don’t underestimate the power of that word love. I love Art.

The difference that Art has made to my world and life cannot be easily put into words. So I drew it instead.

I cannot imagine what you think when you see images like this but, truthfully, they send a shiver down my spine. That people made art and artefacts at the dawn of civilisation and still do gives me the belief that it will always be so. The creative capacity of our human brain is infinite. The human brain is the most complex and most highly organised and the most beautifully and gorgeous organised entity in the known universe.

I spent quite a bit of time before I wrote this looking at and mind mapping some key phrases and words from the iJADE flyer….it helps me to think.

So I don’t have a problem with creativity. Even though some people say defining creativity is like nailing jelly to a wall. I can define it, I can categorise it, I can understand it.

I also have a lovely job. I work every day in creative situations with young learners and not so young learners. I love art. In my life it is the pulse and the heartbeat that drives me. It is an itch that I have to scratch. And that’s why I am in NSEAD, to celebrate all those great things that we all do and to make sure that it continues. Also, that’s why I am happy to be President elect, because it gives me the chance to practice what I preach. To celebrate Art Craft and Design education, and to advocate for it.

But, if I am truthful, then I do have a problem, right now, with that word democracy. The basic definition of democracy in its purest form comes from the Greek language: The term means “rule by the people.” In Westminster Parliamentary democracy, coalitions are legal. But, the fact that something is legal does not make it moral. There is rarely a relationship between legality and morality. The 2010 general election resulted in a hung parliament with no party emerging with an overall majority in the House of Commons. As a result, the first and third parties in terms of votes and seats, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats respectively, entered into a full coalition. WE DID NOT ELECT THIS GOVERNMENT. I therefore don’t think I currently live in a democracy.

I have seen it all, I suppose. 13 Ministers for Education in 30 years and only one of them ever had an educational background. Unluckily for many of us number 13 seems here to stay. Michael Gove, journalist, then politician; who has been described as a bully, an ideologist, a back to the future politician, who has been censured for abuse of power, who does not consult his own team, his own cabinet members or listen to advice given by the experts appointed to advise him. Who has chosen to ignore Ignoring the fact that in high performing countries Art remains important throughout a young person’s time at school. Ignoring reports and research which has world wide standing. Side lining his own commissioned Henley Cultural Report (and don’t forget that the £15 million put aside for making some of this happen is about 50p per child for all the Arts)

Let me talk about NSEAD: “The Society’s principal aims are to promote and defend art, craft and design education and to look after the professional interests of teachers in this area of education “. For many years we have been successfully promoting. But now we must defend. With the dedication of Lesley Butterworth (General Secretary) and Sophie Leach (Assistant General Secretary), who, as the nature of the society suggests, are observing correct protocol and using all the proper channels to promote and to defend. By negotiation, representation, letters, gathering effective data, justification of what art craft and design education is, justification as to why it should get any curriculum time at all……informing members, involving members….. often, these days, going back to square one and starting again. Patiently. With passion. With belief. That’s why I’m on board.

It is significant that the first thing Michael Gove did was to take away the Rainbow. Which is why I (with my other hat on, activist, artist, and campaigner) started a campaign in 2011 to remind him about that. We highlighted our concerns and we brought together educators and learners in a very powerful way. Thousands of art educators and young people wrote to Mister Gove. We didn’t change the world overnight but we did make a strong statement. More did follow and more will follow I promise you. Perhaps that is why Mr Gove wants to kill off the creative arts? Artists have historically questioned, rebelled, collectively inspired and empathised – all the qualities Mister Gove and his government hold in contempt and suspicion.

Let’s be totally topical though and look at some recent statistics. This report was hidden away on the DFE website.Report on the effects of the EBacc

Now just think for a moment,…….. if that is 17% less in all schools and that percentage increases as the EBacc starts to be established, and Art and Design does becomes a subject not valued in schools and by government success criteria , what does that mean for further education and what does that mean for higher education. In twenty years time will we be holding the iJade Conference in a garden shed?

I’ve already said that I know that people will always create, that’s something that can’t change. But I also know that denying young people opportunities to be creative in their formative years will create a race of robots who will almost fear creativity. They will be afraid to step out of line. You all know there is a possibility of damage which may take decades to undo. An education which includes art craft and design is an entitlement for all. What kind of democracy denies this to young people?

I’m proud to be part of a community that cares. One thing that strikes me though is this- where is the joined up thinking across the educational platforms? Why are most of the NSEAD members secondary school art teachers? Where is the bridge between them and the HE sector? Why are we not creating that very important bridge and link?
Why did I address a meeting of 15 Art and Design lecturers in a university and find that none of them were NSEAD members? Or that some of them had not even heard of us? Why are most of my HE contacts from ITT courses? I know there are many members here of course. But why are we not seeing enough people from HE members on anything other than the Publications Board? We need you in the NSEAD, we need you to be on the Professional Development Board, the Curriculum Board, the Council. We need you to listen to and talk to the teachers in secondary and in primary and early years. Come to our network meetings and Conferences. We need you to write for AD magazine, follow us on Twitter, join our Facebook groups. We need everyone in this room to be forming one voice (sorry, don’t want to do an Ed Milliband here). We need you all to share your collective knowledge and experience. It’s absolutely enormous as a resource. But, yes I’m being greedy because I want even more. We need you to write letters, pester your MPs, join campaigns, organise campaigns, wave your flags, make a fuss, be awkward, be noisy….we all need outreach and not just in reach.

We want and we need active members, members at all levels of education. NSEAD can be the glue that brings everyone together. And, if you are not an NSEAD member then we very much need you to join us. Application forms are available on the reception desk!

I know that academic research is really important. I know that, ideally, academia gives us a space and a great range of tools, to think things through, to question taken for granted ideas, to critically examine things. But is that enough in our current political climate? What else can you do?

We need the research that you do to influence and to shape policy and most importantly, to empower the teachers in the classroom and the lecturers in the seminars and lecture halls.

Look around the room, this isn’t just a job…it’s a passion, our shared passion. It’s incredible.

This is a great Conference and a great weekend. But, I worry that on Monday , my government Govian gremlins will not have gone away. Thank you.”


Martin the painter

4289 days ago

Wish I had been at said Conference. Wish I had but I was on the March. Good day for people making statements then?


4289 days ago

It was certainly a “we will fight them on the beaches” moment! Looking forward to the day Gove is ousted and you step in


4268 days ago

Hi Susan, you were so inspiring.
Did you post a PDF of your presentation? if so where would i find it?


4261 days ago

JoiningNSEAD this week. You convinced me Susan. Thanks so much. I’m humbled by your words. .

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