Art for the sake of our children’s lasting happiness
I read with deep sadness your front-page report (‘Fear of failure’ giving UK children the lowest happiness levels in Europe, 28 August). As I was reflecting on why that might be, I came across the obituary for Sir Ken Robinson (26 August). He was a passionate and lifelong advocate for creativity in schools. His work was instrumental in bringing wider access to arts and cultural education for many children and young people and supporting the teachers and artists who were determined that all young people, whatever their background, should have an entitlement to creative and artistic opportunities.
I will not be alone in connecting these two articles. For the last 10 years the government, purposely or not, has systematically undermined creative and artistic education in schools. The narrowing of the curriculum, and other so-called reforms in the cause of “rigour”, have resulted in many of our young people being denied the benefits of enjoying the arts as a life-affirming experience, making a positive contribution to their sense of self, health and wellbeing. No wonder they report deep unhappiness and stress.
• The obituary of Sir Ken Robinson struck me as a bright ray of illumination and hope in an increasingly troubled educational climate. Looking back on my teaching career of 32 years, I feel that children are more and more the victims of the drive for academic achievement and conformity, a goal that many are unable to reach.
At Warwick University, Robinson would have collaborated with Professor John Tomlinson, my former director of education in Cheshire, and another fervent supporter of children’s creativity. Professor Tomlinson’s creed was “keep the faith and keep passing it on”. Many teachers will have been inspired by both these men.
• Stephen Bates’ excellent obituary of Ken Robinson omits one significant initiative in his glittering career. Arising directly from the Gulbenkian Arts in Schools project, in 1984 he and I founded the monthly magazine Arts Express, which I edited.
It was Ken’s irresistible combination of lethal charm and scouse wit that seduced a number of sympathetic corporate executives into opening their chequebooks, thus enabling his visionary ideas about creativity to reach many more arts teachers and practitioners.
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