This Wednesday at Senior Girls, a select audience of parents and friends enjoyed an extraordinary showcase of the girls’ singing abilities of both formal and contemporary music. Each performance lasted about 4 minutes, so we are talking full on ‘single’ duration. I’d have bought them all. Director of Music Hester Goodsell and singing teacher, Freyja Barter, supported so well by Vron Foster and accompanist Jean Glenorchy set up an amazing album of delights, all laid out in cabaret style, as my very bad photo shows here.
I spoke at the end of the concert about the absolute importance we place in Claires Court on performance Art, and its sheer longevity as an ambition. Shortly after Freyja left the Sixth Form, her singing group’s short album was selected for free mass distribution by the Daily Mail, the first girl’s ‘hit’ we have had in my memory. Since then the Sixth Form have established a major footprint in original theatre work, concluding this last summer with their own ‘musical’ play around Noel Coward’s Black Dog. A few year’s ago, we were able to persuade Michael Morpurgo to stage his novel ‘The Kites are flying’ as a stage play at the Edinburgh fringe, and the memory of that work still brings tears to my eyes, set as a love story on the wall that divides Jerusalem.
Writing back in 2010, Michael Morpurgo has this to say about the critical need for a robust Arts education in schools: “I would like to propose that we let the imagination take its place at the heart of learning, and that we create a climate in which it can flourish. We need discovery; making; doing; exploring; creating; critical thinking; seeing; hearing; experiencing. Children have to be introduced to the arts in every form.” It’s almost the strapline for the Claires Court Learning Essentials, the approach we have developed since then for everything we do at school. Now on Tuesday this week, we see the publication of the updated report on the Value of a Cultural education in schools by the Cultural Learning Alliance. The Report is such an easy read, and its key research findings could not be clearer:
1. Participation in structured arts activities can increase cognitive abilities by 17%.
2. Learning through arts and culture can improve attainment in Maths and English.
3. Learning through arts and culture develops skills and behaviour that lead children to do better in school.
4. Students from low-income families who take part in arts activities at school are three times more likely to get a degree.
5. Employability of students who study arts subjects is higher and they are more likely to stay in employment.
6. Students from low-income families who engage in the arts at school are twice as likely to volunteer.
7. Students from low-income families who engage in the arts at school are 20% more likely to vote as young adults.
8. Young offenders who take part in arts activities are 18% less likely to re-offend.
9. Children who take part in arts activities in the home during their early years are ahead in reading and Maths at age nine.
10. People who take part in the arts are 38% more likely to report good health.
Read the Key Research Findings in full at: www.culturallearningalliance.org.uk/evidence
I’ll conclude with a quote from the recently deposed First Lady of the White House, Michelle Obama:
“Arts education is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. It’s really the air many of these kids breathe. It’s how we get kids excited about getting up and going to school in the morning. It’s how we get them to take ownership of their future.”
And I say Amen to that!