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Arts, creativity and culture – celebrating arts education


Dr Steven Berryman FCCT CTeach, organiser of a recent Impact-themed arts event at the Southbank looks back on the event and why it matters…

I had no doubt we would be joined by a good-sized audience for a celebration of the current issue of Impact when we met at the Southbank Centre. I had assembled a team of speakers to celebrate arts education by placing the work of teachers, and that of the Chartered College of Teaching, at its core. It was during the course of the evening hearing from academics and educators who have brokered long-term partnerships to case studies of work by the Southbank Centre and Barbican Centre that it was clear there was much synergy. The evening’s conversations were consistent: through sustained partnerships, we can create excellent outcomes in and through the arts for young people. The key component for this success is effective working with, not through, teachers.

Gillian Moore, Director of Music at the Southbank Centre, welcomed everyone. Her enthusiasm for education was tangible, and Professor Anne Bamford continued this enthusiasm, highlighting the priorities for the City in promoting creative and cultural education for all.

The opening panel established the theme of the evening: teachers are central in promoting arts and creativity in the curriculum. Professor Pat Thomson set the scene of what was to follow: all young people are entitled to cultural education. Her definition of culture is broad, reminding us of the recent Exchanging Notes research project that caused the polarization of Mozart and Stormzy: Pat told us that we need both!

Professor Teresa Cremin, the editor of the current issue of Impact, followed with a beautiful reading of ‘Mushrooms’ by Sylvia Plath. Her talk reflected on the ways teachers continue to champion a commitment to the arts and creativity despite the challenges. Teresa sees the opportunity of creativity to receive increased attention with the PISA 2021 testing including creative-thinking. She spoke of the importance of teachers as artists, working alongside their pupils but also remaining artistically and culturally engaged. This engagement is subsequently strengthened through collaboration with academic and arts partners such as the Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Teacher Development Fund as highlighted by Catherine Sutton from the Foundation. Catherine demonstrated how the fund sought to embrace the characteristics of effective continuous professional development and learning.

Teresa’s definition of creative thinking (‘inventing and reinventing’) shared similarities with Nicky Morgan, Arts Council England. Nickydefined creativity as creating something new for that person, not necessarily something new to the world.

The evening’s main panel looked at collaboration. Dr Anwar Tlili (King’s College London) spoke about how the MA Education in Arts and Cultural Settings was developed to address a need by the Cultural Institute at King’s College. Dr Pamela Yeow, Director of the MBA programme that links Central Saint Martins and Birkbeck spoke about the innovative approach the MBA is taking. This attracts ‘candidates with innate curiosity and wanting to make positive change, socially engaged; to develop into authentic and ethical leaders with social responsibility for all’. Naranee Ruthra-Rajan from A New Direction (AND) discussed how they seek to champion creative opportunities for all.  Kerri Sellens from Lansbury Lawrence Primary School joined Naranee to talk about her experience of being an Advocate for AND and her achievements of co-creating an arts space in a gallery. All of the speakers highlighted the importance of collaboration for sustainable cultural education.

The final panel started with Dr Sophie Frost and Jessica Santer from the Southbank Centre who shared an overview of their ‘Arts Explorer programme’ – a project with Lambeth Primary Schools. Sophie echoed the comments that collaboration requires a careful understanding of how all parties concerned operate. In the contexts of schools, for example, an understanding of the school day can impact how the project can be delivered effectively. Frazer Swift and Bex Hand, from the Museum of London and Barbican Centre, introduced the work of Culture Mile and the ambitions of the partnership to develop innovative creative and cultural learning opportunities that engage a wide range of audiences in the City and beyond. Frazer discussed the Fusion Prize, a new competition – with a £50,000 prize fund – to find innovative ways to upskill future generations, empowering them to meet the demands of today’s employers. The Fusion Prize invites schools, universities, charities, businesses and others to work together and pitch ideas for innovative programmes or products designed to develop the creative, communication, organisational and thinking skills of London’s children or young people through cultural experiences.

The conversation throughout the evening emphasised the importance of teachers and teaching in a broad and varied ecology of arts and cultural education. We can make considerable strides when we work in sustained partnerships, and whilst there are challenges there are opportunities to make innovative work happen.

Wonderfully many of the speakers have contributed to the current issue of Impact. Most striking for me is Chris Hall and Patricia Thomson’s ‘What’s different about arts teachers (and why it matters)’. They write ‘arts teachers can play a unique role in brokering and sustaining relationships between cultural organisations and schools’. This was the message I hoped to demonstrate at event and I think as the conversation continues over the coming months, with the opening of the next round of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Teacher Development Fund and the publication of the Durham Commission Report I think we will be able to demonstrate this unique role further.

Dr Steven Berryman

Founding Fellow, Chartered Teacher

Director of Music, City of London School for Girls and Creative and Cultural Learning, City of London