The Hepworth, Art and Schools.

In September, the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield held a conversation with teachers and leaders and Gallery officials to discuss the importance of art in schools.  I was on the panel and approached the discussion from the perspective of an artist working in schools in Leeds. The discussion was chaired by Sarah Mumford – the Cultural Education Director at IVE. We heard from a teacher called Mandy Barret at Gomersal Primary in Wakefield who was employed as a full-time art teacher in her school. We also heard from Jimmy Rotheram who is a Music teacher in Feversham Primary. He spoke about music and how rhythm helps dyslexic children. He also discussed how he wrote an article for the Guardian Newspaper and was on the BBC about music and the classroom. I spoke about how art should be taught in the classroom as an autonomous subject and though I understand why schools adopt the so called ‘Creative Curriculum’, it should not replace art education. Every child has the right to learn to draw at school. 

 It was an interesting discussion, but it was acknowledged that if Jimmy or Mandy found a new job, their efforts in each of their schools may not be continued or if a new head teacher was appointed at their school with a different view on the importance of the arts, then their efforts would stop. School culture is very important in supporting the arts in schools. Each school should have an arts policy that can be scrutinised and upheld. The arts couldn’t be ignored if there was a policy because each policy is reviewed by the Governing body. There was one man in the audience who posed the question at the end, he mentioned that proportionately, the time we spend at school is small in our lives and what about ‘home’ and extracurricular activities to support the arts? I answered his question by pointing out that for some children, their only stability is in the classroom because home is hostile and unstable. For some children school is hope, that’s why we should teach art in schools.

Penny Rowe