As we start to cautiously move out of lockdown, and increasing numbers of children return to school, thoughts are turning to what education may look like in September and beyond. It is clear that the challenges of the last few months will continue, with social distancing appearing to remain for some time. It also cannot be ignored that children and young people will be impacted in ways we may not be able to predict. We don’t know at this point if schools will return to full capacity in September, but we can be fairly confident that for children and young people returning to education they will experience additional emotional and learning challenges.
There are urgent and emerging discussions in the education community around what the curriculum will need to look like, and the purpose it will need to serve as they welcome children back in to school. In a post on the SSAT website, Barry Carpenter, CBE, Professor of Mental Health in Education, Oxford Brookes University and Matthew Carpenter, Principal, Baxter College, Kidderminster introduced the idea of a Recovery Curriculum, and explored why this would be necessary to support children to transition back in to school. They argue that quite apart from lost months of learning, children will need to re-establish routines, social engagement and behaviour expectations. The priority for many children and young people will be seeing their friends again, with learning secondary.
We should also remember that the needs of children will be different to those of older young people. Teenagers will have different needs, pressures and concerns than younger children. However what will be consistent is the need for holistic, pastoral support and a focus on enabling children to learn how to learn in a classroom environment again. We believe that the arts can support this, and Arts Award provides an effective framework to support schools to embed a pedagogically sound, supportive and proven opportunity to allow students to explore complex emotions through the arts, and be validated for their personal journeys and reflections.
The 5 Levers
In the SSAT article, there is mention of 5 ‘levers’, or areas that schools will need to consider. Arts Award, and the arts more generally can link to these in a range of ways
Lever 1 – relationships. Young people will need to re-establish and develop relationships, and the arts can be a great mechanism for this. For example, rehearing a scene from a play together (even distanced) or performing in a choir or music group helps to develop positive interpersonal relationships, and may be a less pressured way of getting to know each other again.
Lever 2 – community. This is linked to the first lever, with parents having taken on the much visible schooling for several weeks. Having creative activities that children can involve families in will help to reform a positive home-school relationship, and could allow parents to continue to feel a sense of involvement in schooling as this moves back into the classroom
Lever 3 – transparent curriculum. We have always been advocates at Arts Award that a school curriculum should be broad and balanced, and relevant for all young people. As the SSAT article mentions, young people will have all missed elements of learning, and supporting them to recognise and fill these gaps in a positive way will be an important role for schools to fill – above any beyond their usual curriculum. This is just as true for the arts as it is for English, Maths and other EBacc subjects
Lever 4 – metacognition. Arts Award has proven benefits for metacognition. We have reflection built in to each level, and support children to analyse their learning and enjoyment in a supportive, positive way. This will be key for all subjects, and we believe that the arts, and Arts Award, has a real role to play in supporting children learning how to learn again
Lever 5 – space. Not physical space (although this is also a huge question), but the space for young people to be themselves, and have the opportunity to explore what has happened over the past weeks. The arts is a wonderful vehicle to enable expression and to support young people to work through what will be complicated emotions.
The Scottish response
In Scotland, the government has published guidance for schools looking to adapt the Curriculum for Excellence in what they are calling the ‘recovery phase’. In many ways this mirrors the ideas put forwards by the SSAT article, with a focus on ‘the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of children and young people, practitioners and families’. The focus on the wellbeing of practitioners here is also welcome – our teachers and practitioners have been under immense pressure, and we want to ensure you also have the opportunity to teach creative lessons which are enriching for you as professionals as well as having benefit for the students. The Scottish Government guidance goes on to explore how settings should be thinking about their curriculum in a local context, responding to the needs of your families, and engaging with cultural partners to help enrich any out-of-school offers. All things we hope Arts Award can contribute to.
Links to Arts Award
We have already heard from local authorities and academy trust chains who are looking to use Arts Award as a framework to help develop their ‘recovery curriculum’. If you would like a conversation about how this can look for your setting, or if you would like to explore options further, do get in touch. We know that this is going to be a tricky time for many schools and young people, and we are keen to help where we can. Arts Award is a flexible offer, which we hope is a low-pressure option to ease children and young people back into achieving at school, and recognising again the value of working towards a positive outcome.
We have always championed the value of self-expression of children and young people and feel the arts is the perfect vehicle for this, and will continue to do so through this recovery phase and beyond.
If you would like to discuss linking Arts Award to your recovery curriculum or re-integration plans, get in touch