It's nearing the end of the school year and last week, along with teenagers all over the country, my daughter had to make her choices for her GCSE subjects. After we researched and discussed it together at length, it became clear the direction she was heading in, basically following the path I took.
All her choices fell into teh Arts category. I was concerned that she wouldn't be allowed to pick all of these 'fluffy' subjects and that the school would urge her to choose some more academic topics. It brought back some uncomfortable memories of me at that age when I made my own choices, I had the same dilemma. In a school that churned out lawyers and doctors, they were't particularly interested in my artistic pursuits. They urged me to take some subjects that I was no good at and needless to say I failed them epically. I wish I'd had some of the amazing choices of arts subjects that are available today.
The Government has announced that art subjects will join the first round of reformed GCSE subjects to be taught from 2016. This is good news as it shows that they consider the Arts on par with the core subjects in maths, science, languages and the humanities. But I find it sad that the Arts are still viewed as the soft option by many and not given the weight they deserve. When I worked with the GCSE and A level Art students during my residency at Portsmouth Grammar School, it was anything but the easy option. I was surprised at the sheer volume of work and the depth of research that was required.
Art education enriches and propels people towards creative and unexpected destinations – many of which have not even been discovered yet. The truth is that those who choose the Arts, whether its photography, web design, painting or any other art-related speciality, career options are limited only by imagination. Nowadays, fine artists can reach a worldwide market at the click of a button and the demand for app designers, graphic designers, digital illustrators and animation artists is undergoing unprecedented growth.
I have consistently been told all my life that its virtually impossible to make a living as an artist, but its like any profession, you have to treat it as a proper job (not a hobby) and put the time and effort in. With self-belief, passion and perseverance it can work. Here are a couple facts about the importance of Art Education that I hadn't seen before:
- Kids from low income families who take part in arts activities in schools are 3 times more likely to get a degree
- 10 million people who visited the UK in 2012 were involved in engagement in arts and culture representing almost half of all tourists
Imagine society without the Arts and Culture, all the joy would be sucked from life – and a lot of what is vital to education. Take away museums, remove the bands from our schools and choirs from our communities, lose the plays and concerts from our theatres and stadiums or the books from our libraries; wipe out our music festivals, literature and painting, and you're left with a society with no identity. As Winston Churchill allegedly said when asked to cut the Culture Budget during WWII “then what are we fighting for?”
I want my daughter to be comfortable and not struggle in life, but I also want her to do something she loves. I think its important she pick sthe subjects she enjoys and is good at , she is more likely to have the staying power thats required to succeed. Art is her thing, I only hope Society learns to recognise it's value once again.