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EDUCATION

Why we should develop creativity and artistic development in primary schools By Emily Gopaul

Why do year 7 students arrive fresh from primary schools with such disparity in interest, skills and knowledge, in relation to art? While most adults agree that a balanced curriculum is best for our children, in my experience, many primary schools have an insufficient provision for art. With a nation-wide focus on literacy and numeracy, art can often find itself dropped out of the weekly class timetable as busy teachers try their best to fit everything in. Limited resources and lack of teacher confidence can also be detrimental to a well-rounded arts education. There are things parents and teachers can be aware of to ensure a richer art experience for children:

DIVERSIFY THE ART YOU SHOW CHILDREN I believe we have a duty to deliberately expose children to a broad range of art and artists. I have seen many schools fall into the trap of routinely teaching art lessons inspired by the same dead, 20th century, male, white artists or teaching art lessons tenuously linked to class topics. I love a Van Gogh and Egyptian art as much as the next person, but it is important the children feel represented by the art they see and that they are made aware of the enthralling range of art out there to consume, including from diverse ethnic backgrounds and created from different ideas and materials. Where possible, I make a point of showing the children photographs of artists and talking with them about the context of those individuals and the art they make/made.

GET TO KNOW THE POTENTIAL OF DIFFERENT MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES There is a misconception that skills in art cannot be taught, that we either have a natural propensity for making art or we are doomed to life of drawing stickmen. While I have certainly seen some children with impressive natural gifts in art, I have also seen year 1 children develop into

competent and confident year 6 artists because skills were broken down for them, they had time to practice and implement those skills and the skills were progressively built on over a period of time; in much the same way as we learn in any subject area. Equally though, time in ‘creative play’ or exploring the potential of materials and techniques, allows children the opportunity make exciting discoveries for themselves.

ALLOW TIME FOR FREE-FLOWING CREATIVITY Structure, lesson content and a sense of direction are all important within school art lessons, but we must also safeguard art-time as a space for genuine creative and inventive thought. Children benefit from an environment where they can process the world in a way that makes sense to them as individuals, and then represent it in whichever way they choose. When my students and I discuss what I call the ‘big questions’ around art, they express that art makes them feel ‘free’ and that it’s a time when ‘no one can tell me my work is wrong’, they say that they feel ‘relaxed, creative and calm making art’. As adults, these are things we crave: a sense of freedom, respite from the everyday, a sense of calm and trust in our inner world.

TALK ABOUT ART As well as making their own art, it is also enriching for children to have the chance to debate and discuss artworks, to decide for themselves what is, or is not art and to develop their own preferences and opinions. In school, I place equal importance on time spent looking at and discussing art. In an increasingly visual world, being able to infer meaning from images and to critically consider them is a valuable asset. You can use images from books, postcards or a screen but it is also great to make the most of the free galleries in London. Don’t feel you have to see all the art in one gallery visit. It is fine to sit yourselves in front of one artwork and take it in for as long as you like.

Emily Gopaul has worked in a range of primary settings, as an art education consultant in various London primaries and held regular posts at private schools and academy chains. She currently teaches art part-time at Earlsfield Primary.  Her book ‘Teaching Primary Art & Design’ is published by Bloomsbury. www.theprimaryartclass.com

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Parenting magazine for young SW London. A mine of information - which can be your's too. Events, things to do, Free activities.... don't...

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Parenting magazine for young SW London. A mine of information - which can be your's too. Events, things to do, Free activities.... don't...