89% of teachers responding to the 2011/12 survey agreed that engaging their pupils with the arts had had a positive impact on their pupils' academic skills and 100% said that the arts had had a positive effect on pupils' communication and personal skills. Around half said they have observed improvements in literacy and reasoning whilst more than 90% reported noticeable improvements in their pupils' team work and creative thinking skills.
With such positive results, then, what is stopping teachers from using the arts in the classroom? One of the major barriers toward arts education in schools is lack of teacher confidence. Some teachers may have a limited knowledge of the arts, feeling unsure how to approach them with large classes and limited resources. There is also some uncertainty about how the arts can relate to other subjects.
To tackle this issue, it’s imperative that schools give teachers access to in-depth arts training. Teachers should be given the opportunity to work directly with arts professionals in order to equip them with the skills they need to use arts in the classroom. Working directly with arts professionals such as musicians, actors, dancers or visual artists would help inspire teachers to come up with new lesson ideas that bring the curriculum to life, and their enthusiasm will inevitably translate into their classroom.
In addition to the training schemes currently available, such as Catalyst, schools should also look to utilise the skills of local art professionals from within their community or local area, and seek out as many free arts resources as possible.
With the government’s Pupil Premium top of the education agenda, I am urging schools to spend a proportion on the arts. To expand the cultural horizons of less advantaged pupils and empower their teachers will prove to be money very well spent indeed.