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Creativity Feature

Are we squashing our kids’ creativity? By Families TVW features writer, Barrie Hedges We all want our children to be brilliant mathematicians, readers and writers. But in our drive for excellence in the core subjects are we at the same time robbing them of the creativity that will also give them confidence, self-esteem and practical problem-solving skills? With funding pressures often leading to a reduction in the time individual schools can devote to music, drama, dance and visual arts, there are fears that we are in danger of creating ‘exam robots’ rather than imaginative gogetters. One interesting comparison comes from a senior educationalist who describes pupils in Belgium as being far more independent, happy and enthusiastic. “What a contrast with the UK system,” she says. “Our children at age four and five still arrive at schools buzzing with excitement; they have so many ideas. But oh so quickly the UK education system starts to drive out creativity and individuality.” So … what’s the situation in our part of the Thames Valley? We put the issue of creativity in schools to a series of educational creativity specialists whose job it is to enthuse local children with a love of artistic subjects. Music: Inspire Guitar School offers a tailored service to primary and secondary schools in Reading. Proprietor Alex Clarke runs private or school-funded individual and small group lessons on guitar, bass and ukulele. The classes go all the way from ‘little crotchets and quavers’ for nursery and year 1 through music theory to composition, music technology and production. “The benefits of learning to play musical instruments cannot be overstated,” says Alex. “Learning to play helps with confidence, mindfulness, discipline and creativity to name a few. Music is a great confidence builder because it is a skill that children can readily demonstrate. It can also be hugely beneficial to

children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or other behavioural problems — I have seen some big changes in those who have never before tried music as a therapy.” Drama: Berkshire Theatre School. Sammy Fonfe and Phil Buck run the Berkshire Theatre Company, which offers a Saturday theatre school for ages four to 21. They also run holiday workshops and London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) classes in schools across Berkshire and South Oxfordshire. Sammy believes drama has much to offer children. “Acting releases endorphins and enables children to forget about homework or exam revision,” she says. “A break from the intense learning in school can often help them perform better when they come back to it. It benefits all children, but especially those for whom academia is a struggle or who experience challenges in their lives — drama gives them so much self-confidence and helps them make new friends.” Visual arts: Lots of Lovely Art (LoLA). Alara Hindle and Selina Swayne run art workshops in schools and work with teachers. They have also set up a new service to bring LoLA’s innovative art classes to families at home with a monthly ‘curated’ art box. Says Alara: “In recent years, school curricula all over the world have shifted heavily toward reading and maths. Creativity, confidence and a love of the arts are not easily measurable

14 • Henley • Reading • Wokingham • Bracknell • Newbury • West Berkshire

Expanding horizons with the Portuguese Language Club

through standardised tests. But it has been shown time and again that art education is an important building block in a child’s development. “Teaching art in and out of schools for the past 15 years, I have seen how creativity can open conversations, relax children, encourage socialisation, improve fine motor skills, help with maths and language skills, and elicit selfpride and confidence.” Languages: Portuguese Language Club. Based in Tilehurst, Reading, Maria Rodrigues offers Portuguese tuition within schools to GCSE and A-level, and also privately. She places particular emphasis on creating a happy teaching environment that helps children to absorb the subject. “Portugal is one of the most popular holiday destinations for a lot of parents, and they like their children to learn the language,” she says. “The core subjects are very important but learning a new language can do so much for a child, especially if it is tied to understanding the culture and values. It expands their horizons and helps them to form cross-cultural friendships. Music: Berkshire Maestros is the lead organisation of the Berkshire Music Hub, delivering instrumental and singing lessons in schools across the county and at music centres in Reading, Bracknell, Wokingham, Newbury and Windsor. Chief Executive Lynne Ellis makes a strong case for music as a medium for stimulating and challenging children and giving them a real sense of achievement as well as creating a powerful community bond across the school. Says Lynne: “We believe that music has the power to enrich and fulfill young lives, so our aim is to work together to make sure that young people, teachers, musicians, schools and the wider community find exciting ways to make music. Together, we will make a difference to children and young people, and light a musical spark that will, hopefully, last a lifetime.”

Profile for Families Magazine

Families Thames Valley West May June 2019 issue 101