How do we change the system?

Judy Thomas, Susan Coles

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This presentation considers a possible crisis facing art education.

Spanning Primary to Post Graduate, there are shifts in the way young people
are learning and how they are subsequently taught.

As a result of top down pressures to achieve grades, meet targets, with ever
present competitive league tables and a push to comply, educational
establishments are no longer encouraged to promote the value of the arts and
priorities are increasingly shifted towards Science, Technology, English and
Maths. Whilst the need for STEAM (Science, Technology, English, Art and
Maths) instead of STEM seems obvious to us, we are still left fighting for our
subject. The ability to think freely, take risks, question and learn with
independence and confidence is becoming increasingly challenged. Creativity
is being threatened by formulaic, box ticking processes and the push to
conform. As a result, we question whether students are becoming more

We also recognise the necessity for resilience and solidarity.

Drawing upon observations that range from work in primary settings,
supporting secondary students and teachers, interviewing prospective under
graduates, facilitating Year 1 BA Fine Art students and working with MA
Creative Arts and Education and PGCE students, we highlight a culture of
‘need’ emerging. We recognise an increasing call for reassurance, guidance
and direction. We consider how we connect to these needs and empower
students to become stronger, independent thinkers. We look towards
conducting approaches that flow with boldness, risk and self-reliance.

We believe the arts increasingly make valuable contributions to society as a
whole; embracing risk, failure and having the ability to problem solve has a
long-term positive impact on self-esteem, confidence and general well-being.
This is something we wish to encourage with our learners but also need to
model. We want to conduct a flexibility that equips the ability to embrace
change, innovate and inspire.

Gregory (2017) recognises the need to “unite, inspire and support art
educators at every level of our education systems” (NSEAD, 2017). The All
Party Parliamentary Group on Art Craft and Design Education, set up in 2012,
allows a diverse group of visual art educators and supporters from other arts
sector groups and organisations to discuss issues in a way that informs and
influences current and future policy makers. NSEAD's regional network
groups also strive to give educators space for collaboration and advocacy.
These are pro active, self generating groups.
We wish to facilitate debate with peers that explore positive routes that help
counter some of these challenges. We are the super connectors and
conductors, with shared beliefs and values, who can make the difference if we
strengthen our numbers and keep fighting.

● How do we work together to promote the value of the
● How do we create spaces for teachers in school settings
to connect, collaborate, and be creative in their
● How do we then enable students to become less needy?
● Where are the routes which will make this happen?
● How do we share and disseminate these?
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Mar 2017
EventNational Association for Fine Art Education Annual Conference 2017: Artist as Superconnector Superconductor - Coventry University, Coventry, United Kingdom
Duration: 24 Mar 201724 Mar 2017


ConferenceNational Association for Fine Art Education Annual Conference 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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