Performing plays a crucial part in building children’s character, the Education Secretary has said.
Organisations including the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) have previously expressed fears that creative arts are being squeezed out of school timetables due to a lack of funding. But Education Secretary Damian Hinds has now said activities like performing artswhich build children’s confidence and resilience, are just as important as academic qualifications.
In a speech to the Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership conference, Mr Hinds identified what he called the ‘five foundations for building character’. He now plans to audit the availability of extracurricular activities across the country to identify areas which need support.
Mr Hinds said the five foundations were sport, creativity, performing, volunteering and membership and the world of work. Performing includes activities like dance, drama and singing as well as debating and public speaking.
Creativity includes a wide variety of creative activities including coding, art and design, writing and music composition. Volunteering and membership is intended to increase children’s involvement in their community and includes going to groups like the Girl Guides and Scouts as well as things like raising money for charity and litter picking.
Mr Hinds also wants young people to gain practical experience of the workplace through placements, entrepreneurships and meeting people from different professions.
Activities help young people become more resilient
He said: “Character and resilience are the qualities, the inner resources that we call on to get us through the frustrations and setbacks that are part and parcel of life. How do we instil this in young people, how do we make sure they are ready to make their way in the world as robust and confident individuals?
“I have heard repeatedly from teachers, parents and young people themselves about the areas of activity that will help develop character and resilience. They combine elements that will stretch and challenge and will help young people think, develop and grow and which will enhance their self-esteem and their confidence.”
Nikki Johnson, managing director of Noodle Performance Arts, said: “At Noodle Performance Arts, we see first-hand just what a difference performing arts can make to children’s confidence and self-esteem. We love nothing more than seeing a child who started off too shy to speak in front of a group happily get up on stage to show off the skills they have learnt.
“We are pleased that the Education Secretary has recognised what an important role performing, creative arts and other extracurricular activities play in a child’s overall education. Learning is about so much more than passing exams.”
Dame Julia Cleverdon, co-founder of the #iwill campaign, which brings together more than 900 organisations with the aim of getting more young people involved in youth social action, said: “I am delighted with the Secretary of State’s aspiration to increase the quality and spread of activity within his five foundations for character, which will strengthen the role our education system plays in supporting the character development of our young people.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, who has previously warned that subjects like A-level drama and music were in danger of disappearing, also welcomed Mr Hind’s remarks.
He said: “It’s good that the Secretary of State is recognising the important part played by extra-curricular activities, which have a proud tradition across schools and colleges of all types. Such activities don’t lend themselves to school performance tables, but they should be an essential part of every child’s experience.”