To foster a love of art in children, we must teach it at primary school

Feb 14, 2018 by

Photo by William Felker on Unsplash

If we want children to value art, we must give them access to it early on in life. Here’s how primary schools can make space for creativity

It’s no secret that arts subjects are increasingly being deprioritised in many schools, and that there’s a fall in the number of pupils taking arts subjects at GCSE. Yet the arts matter, not only to individual learning but to the UK as a whole: the creative industries currently contribute £84.1bn a year to the economy.

Enthusiasm for art should really start at primary school – by the time students reach year seven, attitudes about what matters in education will have already been established. The national curriculum for art and design is sparse and leaves a lot open to interpretation, meaning that provision varies greatly between schools. With pressures on pupil progress for reading, writing and maths, it’s not uncommon for a whole term to pass without one art lesson.

Most of the primary teachers I’ve spoken to say they miss teaching art. Even those who don’t think of themselves as artistically minded acknowledge that pupils are missing out on a vital part of education and life if art is excluded. So what can primary schools do to offer more opportunities for creativity? There are a number of small improvements that can make all the difference.

Map out a curriculum for the whole school

Most teachers won’t have the time to develop a comprehensive art curriculum by themselves. But if school leadership creates time for staff to work together and share ideas, it’s possible to create something worthwhile.

Robust art curricula should cover a range of artists, styles, genres, websites, books and galleries. Look to design lessons that build on prior learning, can be connected to a wider context (historical or geographical, for example) and provide opportunities to further develop visual literacy. Teachers can be encouraged to help children to think critically about images by asking open and closed questions, and giving them sentence starters as a way to talk about art. For example, “I like the way the artist has … ” or “In this artwork I can see … ”

Most importantly, make sure the subject matter is broad and includes culturally and ethnically diverse artists. Children need to understand that art is made by all sorts of people, in a variety of ways, and should feel represented by the art and artists they are exposed to.

Source: To foster a love of art in children, we must teach it at primary school | Teacher Network | The Guardian

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