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Pupils & learning

Festival will celebrate vital role of the arts in schools and colleges


Nine education organisations are planning a festival on Friday 28 May 2021 to celebrate the vital role of the arts in our schools and colleges, and the fantastic work done by children and young people.

The Festival of School and College Arts aims to provide a badly needed antidote to the misery and disruption caused by the Covid pandemic over the past year and showcase learning and creativity.

It will be a festival that every school and college can take part in simply by posting the artistic achievements of pupils and students on their Twitter account on that day using the hashtag #EduArtsFest.

We want to fill Twitter with paintings, drawings, poems, music, dance, and drama. Posts could consist of a great video, recording, or image – anything which celebrates the artistic achievements of young people.

We know schools and colleges have many demands on their time, but we’re hoping this day of celebration will act as a moment of relief from other pressures, showcasing poems, painting, and performances that are already happening within or around lessons. 

The Festival of School and College Arts is being launched by the Association of Colleges (AoC), Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), Confederation of School Trusts (CST), Independent Schools Council (ISC), National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), the NASUWT teachers’ union, National Education Union (NEU), National Governance Association (NGA), and the Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA).

We will be promoting the event to our respective members over the next few weeks through our communication networks as well as linking up with artistic organisations to help spread the word.

The festival is also being supported by the Cultural Learning Alliance which champions a right to arts and culture for every child.

NGA Chief Executive Emma Knights said: “The arts spark imagination and enjoyment in children and young people, enriching their lives and ours. We wholeheartedly support the aims of this festival as we know governors and trustees across the land will. Let’s all have lots of fun and watch our pupils flourish.”

Jacqui O’Hanlon, Director of Learning and National Partnerships, Royal Shakespeare Company and Chair of the Cultural Learning Alliance, said: “Participating in the Arts has provided inspiration and refuge during the pandemic for millions. The Festival of School and College Arts is a brilliant opportunity to value and celebrate the creative lives, talents and resilience of our children and young people.”

Association of Colleges Chief Executive David Hughes said: “This is an exciting way to celebrate students in all of their creativity and diversity and it moves us on from all of the negative media about ‘learning loss’ and problems. There’s been lots of focus on colleges and schools over the last year, but too little has been focused on the brilliance of the millions studying and training – I hope this helps to do just that.”

ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton said: “The festival is a chance to turn the page on bubbles, self-isolation, lateral flow tests and all the other jargon of the pandemic, and get back to the creativity and joy which forms such an important part of educating young people.”

CST Chief Executive Officer Leora Cruddas said: “The Festival aims to capture children and young people’s stories through art and drama and music and poetry. This is a call to action for schools, trusts and colleges across England – to capture these stories of people and places, of lives lived, of resilience, of ordinary acts of kindness, of heroism, of fortitude.”

ISC Chief Executive Julie Robinson said: “This festival provides a welcome opportunity to celebrate the role of the performing and creative arts in our education system, shining a light on all-important cultural and expressive opportunities for children.”

NAHT General Secretary Paul Whiteman said: “The arts will be a vital part of healing the damage lockdown has done, allowing children to be children again, to socialise, exercise, express themselves, play and learn. The best thing we can do to support schools in helping children’s recovery, both educational and wellbeing, is to make sure the curriculum remains broad and inclusive of the arts.”

NASUWT General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach said: “Time for creative subjects was coming under increasing pressure before the pandemic, and it is essential that these subjects are protected within the curriculum, that the critical importance of the arts to education recovery is recognised and that access to provision is enhanced for all pupils.”

NEU Joint General Secretaries Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney said: “This will be a fantastic celebration of the role of arts and creativity in education, bringing schools and colleges together and putting at the heart of this festival the brilliance of young people.”

SFCA Chief Executive Bill Watkin said: “It is imperative that we keep the arts in education secure and flourishing and that we recognise and celebrate young people’s creativity and artistic talent; if they are to make a truly valuable contribution to society, all young people need to develop their creative skills, their artistic sensitivities and their ability to interact with others.”