A post from Frances Howard and Becky Coles.
When attending conferences – the Journal of Youth Studies conference, the BERA conference, the Oxford Ethnography conference, for example – a usual starting point is to trawl through the programme looking for the ‘Arts’ presentations. A second reading looks out for research projects with creative and engaging methods, whilst putting a ring around both. Usually there are not many. Seeing them fills a quarter of the time at best.
However, at the ETHNOARTS conference – University of Porto, 22-23 June 2017 – every presentation could have been highlighted. Ethnographic Explorations of the Arts and Education was the full conference title and it’s programme included presentations of ethnographic research into theatre, urban art, dance, music, museum education and community engagement. It also included methodological presentations such as those that blended ethnography and learning, visual ethnography and ethnography using mobile technologies.
The keynote speech, Critical Arts-based Research: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Due, was given by Carl Bagley and considered together contemporary arts based research with undocumented students in the US and the work of German-Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon (1917-1943). It stimulated discussion about ‘ethnoarts’ as a hybrid space between ethnography and art practice and as a space that must be politicised and activist. ‘Ethnoarts can resonate with audiences beyond the Academy’, Bagley argued.
Pat Thomson, alongside Alice Walton from Tate, gave a presentation about the Teacher’s Summer School programme titled Learning with the Art Museum: Experiments in talking/writing ethnography. We considered how teachers access artist experience as we moulded the playdough given out. This was followed by a presentation about the Serpentine Gallery’s ‘Changing Play?’ work to reconsider play and early years education.
We presented a paper on informal film-making education which explored the effects of austerity. We argued that filmmaking education survives in ever lesser funding streams by being innovative and flexible and drawing on the resources of young people’s ‘bedroom’ practices and artists’ workplaces. In doing so it enacts an ‘enterprising’ way of being and imports ‘enterprising’ ways of thinking and doing from these other domains.
These were only a few of the arts and ethnographic presentations given at the ETHNOARTS conference. If you are interested in reading more, watch out for the special issue of the Ethnography & Education Journal Ethnographic Explorations of the Arts and Education, which will be published in 2018.
This article by Jo McIntyre, appeared in The Conversation, June 1, 2017.
In the UK, the world’s fifth richest economy, vulnerable children are being denied education. Asylum seekers and refugee children are struggling to access education – and unable to attend school or college. This contravenes rights to equal educational access in accordance with international human rights law.
I’m currently working on research projects about child refugees, one of which compares experiences of children in the UK with those arriving in Sweden – and I am concerned that the UK education system is not currently fit for purpose or able to provide adequate schooling for every child.
The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.
Lessons should be learned from countries such as Sweden, where more inclusive practices are already in place. It should also be considered how education policies and practices are working against schools and teachers who want to welcome refugees but who are unable to.
Take Hassan, he’s 15 and Iranian, and I met him at an arts workshop for recently arrived child refugees in the UK. Hassan had been in the UK for four months and did not yet have a school place.
His age is the first barrier when it comes to an education. This is because Hassan should be in year 11 – GCSE year – which means a school could be reluctant to take him because he is unlikely to have sufficient preparation time for exams.
Teachers are also under massive amounts of pressure to deliver outcomes to boost their school’s progress scores and performance in league tables. And new arrivals such as Hassan – regardless of their prior attainment and experience – are unlikely to be able to adjust to the English school culture and absorb the content and skills required to pass high stakes examinations in the remaining months of year 11.
The second barrier is language. When we met, Hassan had a friend translating. And until he has a school place, Hassan will be reliant on the support of volunteer groups for English language lessons.
There is another practical barrier, too – Hassan had a letter from his local authority (which he carries with him) saying there are three potential schools for him. But none are near Hassan’s home, and two of the schools are two bus rides away.
Navigating the system
If Hassan isn’t successful in finding a school place in 40 days, his case will appear before what’s known as a Fair Access Panel. This will allocate a place to Hassan and there will be a further period of time when the school can appeal this decision.
Should he find a place, the school, undoubtedly worried about balancing budgets and managing limited resources, will decide which class to put him in, which subjects, and which sets. He might also attend an intervention programme to develop his English and help him access the curriculum, but such places are limited.
More likely, Hassan will be placed in a mainstream classroom and given in-house language support – which will mean withdrawal from some lessons. He will probably also be placed in lower sets because his English will mask his real ability.
These decisions will have short, and maybe, longer term implications for Hassan’s prospects and for the friendship groups he develops.
The Swedish way
But until Hassan gets a school place, he is stuck. He reached the UK but is unable to begin making a new life because he cannot access the support the education system should be able to offer him. And if this is still the case after the age of 16, his experiences are likely to be worse because places in post 16 provision are often even more limited.
But had Hassan landed in Sweden, he and his family would access two hours daily of Swedish language tuition – as part of their residence permit. In school, Hassan would also receive two hours teaching per week in his home language.
This reflects research which shows that when it comes to language learning, a bilingual environment is most successful. This means a child’s first language is continued to enable them to learn a second or third language more quickly.
In Sweden, Hassan’s local school would also commit to enrol him as quickly as possible. Often within a fortnight of arriving in the country.
Like Sweden, schools in the UK should also be inclusive spaces that offer education for all rather than just for league tables. This is important because young refugees are likely to complete their education in their new country – becoming full members of their “post-settlement” society.
So instead of restricting access to education, the UK should instead recognise the potential of these children and welcome them in its schools as they begin their new lives.
Becky Parry reports on a research visit.
In March I was successful in my application to undertake a research visit to Finland. This was part of an EU funded Cost Action: THE DIGITAL LITERACY AND MULTIMODAL PRACTICES OF YOUNG CHILDREN (DIGILITEY) and included visiting colleagues in the University of Helsinki and Tampere. In this post I share my reflections about an exhibition I visited at the Helsinki Art Museum.
The Helsinki Art Museum is part of a broader complex which includes a cinema and various shops and fast food outlets. One of the shop fronts in the complex is an exhibition space in which manikins were positioned with buckets on their heads. This work by Jouko Korkeasaari: Mystical Rapture certainly caught the eye of the passer by, drawing them in from the cold and snowy streets.
Perhaps due to their extreme weather the Fins are very geared up for the layers of coats, scarves gloves etc and provide plentiful and free cloakrooms and lockers. As tourists we paid (teachers are free) and had a quick look at the Tove Jansson gallery before heading up to the Modernism exhibition
On the way in we found ourselves drawn to these post-it note style invitations to visitors to participate in a range of activities.
For me these simple suggestions are importantly different to the achingly dull worksheet often found in museums and galleries. Although they offer clear instructions, the outcomes are open ended. If you have a go you might become part of an art work or be inspired to devise a new movie.
The Modernism exhibition Modern Life! – Finnish Modernism and the International Dimension was designed by Marcel Schmalgemeijer and included an array of artefacts from everyday objects to brand new buildings, photography, engines and glassware. My personal favourites were a series of chairs and dresses beautifully lit so that I couldn’t resist trying to capture them and the interesting shadows they created on my camera phone. As I did so a murmur gathered momentum and I wondered if I had done something wrong, but it turned out that there was a live musical performance beginning in the gallery – one of three musician’s creative responses to the exhibition was being performed live. It felt rather amazing to just encounter this unexpectedly and I enjoyed wondering around gazing, peering and pointing whilst the performance filled the gallery spaces.
I compared the exhibition to a recent one I had attended in the UK which has been bugging me ever since. It seemed to me to be too focused on one artist and too focused on what the work said about art, rather than what the art said about the world. This exhibition presented social history, geography, politics and economics alongside architecture, art and design. It was accessible and beautiful and I had the urge to try and capture it, albeit on a mobile. It was something I wanted to share and talk about.
On reflection I wonder about the museum’s use of the phrase ‘art is popcorn for the brain’ – signs in English declaring this were hung all over the café, shop and entrance. I understand the link to the cinema, to accessibility and enjoyment but pop corn is such an ephemeral thing and I am not sure the analogy works entirely. Pop corn is light, fluffy and pleasurable and this exhibition could certainly not be dismissed as that. The exhibition seemed to me to be designed with a determination not to assume that the audience knew about Modernism already and was rich with contextual, explanatory material which presented a narrative but avoided cliché (and wasn’t only speaking to the art critics that might appear on specialised radio programmes). It was concerned with giving the audience exhibits they could imaginatively engage with because they included the everyday and they included everything from rugs to aeroplane propellers. I returned to a frequently asked question I have about what art museums are for. This set the scene for my visit, providing an opportunity to think about what education, especially for the very young, is for. I was reminded of the work of Elliott Eisner and his suggestion that:
The arts celebrate multiple PERSPECTIVES. One of their large lessons is that there are many ways to SEE and INTERPRET the world.
This is something that young people from the CRACL’s centre’s TALE project have been telling us for the last year they most value about doing art. Art museums then, are not just about art, artists or art critics they are about the everyday and should inspire us to read and redesign the world critically and creatively.
 The NEAE has a great summary of Eisner’s ten lessons the arts teach here: https://www.arteducators.org/advocacy/articles/116-10-lessons-the-arts-teach
Becky Coles and Pat Thomson report some emerging research results.
What did Circuit mean to the young people who engaged with it most deeply? We set out to answer this question by following twenty-one young people from Circuit’s ‘core’ or ‘peer’ groups in four galleries. We asked about their everyday lives and their experiences of work, education the gallery and art practice, through five ‘waves’ of interviews over two years.
As might be expected, our participants came from relatively well educated and well-off backgrounds: seventeen had a parent who was doing at least skilled manual work, administrative work or running a family business and seven of these had a parent doing highly paid work; thirteen had a parent with a degree and four had a parent with an Art degree; seventeen participants were themselves studying or had studied an arts subject at college or university. Yet there was considerable variation in how privileged these young people were.
It is generally agreed among those who research employment in the cultural and creative industries that getting jobs is hard, so it is not surprising that six of the young people in our study had been unsuccessful in getting the work they aspired to on graduating from University. For those who had families they could live with, this was less of a problem than for those who did not and who became reliant on gruelling regimes of badly paid work and insecure housing.
A majority (16) participants wanted careers in the creative and cultural industries and nine wanted them specifically in the art world. But while three were doing vocationally oriented degrees and six were planning how to negotiate career paths while still in education, others had been blocked from doing so by a lack of financial resources or a lack of awareness or knowledge. An equal number – six – were not following a plan but working their way up into paid positions, starting with voluntary work. Achieving financial security in the future was a significant concern for some participants (six), all of whom came from less well-off backgrounds or lacked a family they could live with. While four expected professional work in the arts to provide security, two hesitated to fully commit to the precarious and competitive work structures of the art world.
Participants who did not aspire to careers in the arts or creative industries either felt no need to plan because of the family support they could rely on – two, for example, felt free to become totally absorbed in their art degree for its own sake – or they saw professional roles as incompatible with their independent art practice or entrepreneurial ambition. Two quit education, favouring the informal support structures of the art world and creative industries. While twelve participants had their own ongoing art practice, two also said they could not call themselves artists because they did not make a living from their work. Although four had used their art practice in paid work at the gallery, no participants expected to make a living from making art.
It was a pleasure and a thrill for participants to do something for other people and to feel part of large and powerful institution. Circuit made up for the lack of professional work available to them. Eight found Circuit a comfortable place to socialise, particularly when they were going through difficult social experiences elsewhere. All but one however, had also felt obliged to do some Circuit voluntary work they didn’t enjoy or weren’t sure about because they felt committed or indebted to Circuit.
Circuit also helped our participants find out about career pathways, learn workplace skills and integrate into art-world sub-cultures. Seven had made decisions about their education based at least in part on discussions with people at the gallery. Circuit also helped participants work their way into jobs. Five went on to get professionally paid work in a gallery on the basis of their work with Circuit. Two, however, had tried to do this and failed. And six others had found regular non-professional paid work at the gallery, or occasional work as they were needed, which provided them with income and a continued connection with the art world.
We are following up the participants in a few months to see what they are doing ‘post Circuit’.
Frances Howard is researching the Arts Award with ‘disengaged ‘ young people. She writes
Pat and I are working to support The Mighty Creatives (TMC), the East Midlands Bridge Organisation, to run Artsmark Support Workshops based around ‘Evidencing the Impact’.
The Artsmark award was re-launched in 2015 and is a mechanism for helping schools to enrich, develop and strengthen their arts and cultural provision. Schools accredited with Artsmark embed the arts in whole school planning and improvement and enable access for their pupils to high quality resources and networks of cultural organisations.
The workshops are designed to help schools explore how they can best capture evidence of impact on children, staff and the wider school. Teachers undertake practical planning exercises which ensure they consider how best to capture the evidence of impact as they go, in order to be able to reflect on the wider impact of their Artsmark journey in the final case study.
The key questions that we have been posing in these workshops are based around the nature of evaluation: What are we hoping to do? What do we expect to see as a result? And what evidence can we gather to see if this has occurred? Key messages we hope to communicate on telling your overall story include thinking small, incorporating a variety of data and thinking about the analysis of data.
Alongside these theoretical considerations and practical exercises, CRACL postgraduate researchers, myself included, have been presenting empirical examples of data gathering and analysis on their research with schools, arts programmes and children and young people.
These workshops are on-going, taking place twice termly, across the East Midlands region.
We are looking forward to continuing this relationship and developing the work further.
This post by Susan Jones is re blogged from The Conversation, Feb 9, 2017.
The Bafta nominated film I, Daniel Blake portrays the often brutal experiences of those attempting to navigate the British welfare system. Director Ken Loach has said of his film, however: “It’s for those people who are struggling against the cruelty of bureaucracy, whatever country.”
The film gives us insights into the ways in which today’s world can be particularly alienating for those without the specific skills it demands. Viewing the film through the lens of literacy, we see how letters, booklets and forms accrue as pillars of a system decried by Daniel Blake as a “monumental farce”.
Within a knowledge economy, literacy is bound up in a wider suite of policy based on an economic/financial model of human development and a narrow view of how people make use of literacy in their everyday lives. As is shown in the film, this both compounds the challenge for those in need of access to vital resources and renders their everyday experiences invisible.
Daniel Blake is not “illiterate” – he is resourceful, creative and willing to work, and we see him using his skills and sharing his knowledge. He is told that the benefit system he is forced to navigate is “digital by default”. Daniel’s riposte that he, as a craftsman, is “pencil by default” reflects one of his key challenges. The pencil is associated with versatility and being open to change. However, it can also be rubbed out and replaced, like the generations of workers Daniel represents in post-industrial society.
When he is asked to “run the mouse up the screen” of the computer in his local library, where he has sought help with his benefit form, he tries to do so physically. When he is told his screen is “frozen” he replies: “Can you defrost it?” The unfamiliarity of these processes place this man, who has never before needed state support, in an alien world.
A world moving on
New technologies may be moving on, meaning people like Daniel can be left behind, yet the film demonstrates how digital technology is a key resource for creative and collaborative responses to economic challenge. Daniel’s neighbour has been forced to use his initiative to supplement a meagre income from a zero-hours contract by ordering counterfeit trainers through a contact in China.
Daniel is left incredulous at the Skype conversation he witnesses – his disbelief at the fact that this conversation is taking place at two different ends of the globe emphasises how the world is moving on around him, leaving him without access to resources, recognition or the means to participate in society. It is this neighbour, China, who is finally able to complete the Job Seekers’ Allowance (JSA) form online for Daniel, after days of his thwarted attempts in more official institutions.
Despite the stranglehold placed on claimants by the bureaucracy depicted in the film, the two most powerful texts in Daniel’s story are his own. His spray-painted graffiti makes public the individual struggles that take place within a hidden maze of official texts. The note Daniel prepares to read at his appeal, handwritten in pencil, also challenges the system he has been forced to navigate. Announcing himself as “I, Daniel Blake” in both of these texts, Daniel is defiant in reclaiming his identity from those who have sought to define him.
The benefits system with which Daniel grapples is the result of the most significant reform of the British welfare state in half a century: that is, in the time since Loach directed Cathy Come Home. However, the challenge for those made vulnerable by poverty is even more acute today than it was five decades ago, and media-friendly epithets of “skivers” or “strivers” hark back across centuries to notions of the feckless and undeserving poor.
Researching for his Bafta nominated screenplay, screenwriter Paul Laverty heard stories across the UK of insecure housing, zero-hours employment contracts, inflexible fitness to work assessments and punitive sanctions. Katie’s desperation at the food bank is one of the film’s most powerful depictions of the impact of recent welfare reform on personal dignity, and it reflects the reality of an eight-fold increase in their use in the last five years.
A close focus on literacy in I, Daniel Blake highlights the impact of welfare policies which are based upon a narrow view of people’s lives. It also shows how this impact is compounded when such policies rely upon narrow ways of viewing literacy and the rich complexity of its role in everyday life. Literacy education and research can and should continue to challenge reductive models of what it means to be literate, and to critically explore the implications of this for social justice. This can provide valuable space for voices, such as that of Daniel Blake, to be heard
This is Roma Patel discussing her PhD research on digital props in theatre for small children – it’s the story behind The Runaway Hare.
CRACL members have recently published two new books. As if thats not enough, one of our PhD graduates has also published the book from her thesis.
Alex Southern (2016) The Ministry of Education Film Experiment. From Post-War Visual Education to 21st Century Literacy. Palgrave Macmillan.
Becky Parry, Cathy Burnett and Guy Merchant ( Eds) (2017) Literacy, media, technology. Past, present, future. Bloomsbury
Pat Thomson and Christine Hall ( 2017) Place based methods for researching schools. Bloomsbury
This is a piece that Pat has just written for a forthcoming NUT publication on primary assessment.
The national curriculum guidelines affirm the value of cultural education for all children. The arts – including art and design, music, dance, drama and media arts, design and technology – are an integral part of the national curriculum up to age 14. The guidelines for art, craft and design for example begin by stating that these subjects “embody some of the highest forms of human creativity” and that a “high-quality art and design education should engage, inspire and challenge pupils, equipping them with the knowledge and skills to experiment, invent and create their own works of art, craft and design” (Department for Education, 2013).
The four domains of cultural education – knowledge, the development of analytic and critical skills, skills based in particular arts forms, and the development of personal creativity – are to be fostered through a formal school programme, as well as informal opportunities. Influential arts advocates John Sorrell, Paul Roberts and Darren Henley argue that a commitment to cultural education also means that all children should, for instance, engage with artists, visit a wide range of cultural institutions, enjoy extra-curricular arts activities and experience the pleasures of being audience, participant and producer (Sorrell, Roberts, & Henley, 2014).
There is research which shows that cultural education offers even more than subject-based learning. The arts support children to build a wide range of communication skills, to exercise responsible leadership, to learn and practice team work and to take initiative (Thomson, Coles, Hallewell, & Keane, 2014). Research also suggests that primary schools with robust cultural education programmes have improved attendance (Cooper, Benton, & Sharp, 2011; Durbin et al., 2010) and a more positive school ethos (Bragg & Manchester, 2011); teachers and students alike have a greater sense of well-being (McLellan, Galton, Steward, & Page, 2012).
There seems every reason for primary schools to embrace the arts enthusiastically. Cultural education is part of what they are meant to do, and has well evidenced positive benefits. Yet a comprehensive primary cultural education offer is not the reality.
The regime of national tests, with their overwhelming emphasis on particular types of literacy acquisition, makes it very difficult for schools and teachers to offer the broad and balanced cultural learning experiences envisaged in the national curriculum and by cultural education advocates. The most recent survey by the National Society for Art and Design Education (2016) for example showed that
89% of primary teacher respondents in all state schools indicated that in the last five years, and in the two terms before key stage 2 National curriculum tests (year 6), the time allocated for art and design had reduced. In contrast, a decrease in time was reported by only 54% of independent school art and design respondents.
In practice this meant that:
35% of key stage 1 respondents in state primary schools and 63% in independent primary schools said pupils in their schools access curriculum time for art and design for one hour a week on average.
31% of key stage 2 respondents in state primary schools and 70% in independent schools said pupils in their school access curriculum time for art and design for one hour a week on average.
This is an alarming picture. It suggests that in many schools across the country children are missing out on foundational cultural learning experiences. This places the onus on parents. But research shows that lower income parents struggle to provide extra-curricular arts activities for their children (The Sutton Trust, 2014), and that parents with higher qualifications are much more likely to ensure that their children spend more than three hours a week engaged in cultural activities outside of school (SQW Consulting & Ipsos MORI, 2013). This is clearly an unacceptable situation – leaving engagement in cultural education to parent’s capacity to pay is a recipe for a geography of cultural inequity. Parents with lower income depend on their children’s school to ensure the entitlement to arts education as described in the national curriculum.
Some primary schools of course have not reduced their emphasis on cultural education. They make sure that time for the arts is not eroded by test preparation. They employ a primary arts specialist as part of their core staff complement. They use Arts Mark as a framework to manage time spent on creative and cultural education, commissioning artists and arts organisations to work in partnership with them. They employ arts specialists to provide programmes which then release teachers for planning time. They use their pupil premium funding to ensure that children from low income homes are able to participate in extra-curricular activities and excursions. They are in regions or cities where there is additional support for cultural and creative education, perhaps one of the fifty Cultural Education Partnerships recently established by Arts Council England .
But cultural education should not be left to accidents of geography or the commitment of individual schools, governors and teachers, any more than it should be the gift of parents who can afford it. Education policy-makers in England must do better and do more to ensure that all children, regardless of their situation, are able to “participate fully in cultural and artistic life’. This means, as Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Children puts it, that government must take deliberate steps to “encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity”.
The national curriculum expresses the learning that is important for the next generation, it spells out the kinds of learnings that are fundamental to our society and are an entitlement for all children. As imperfect as the national curriculum now is, it still has the arts as foundational learning. Policy-makers must do more than set out guidelines – they must make the outcomes achievable. Testing regimes and care-less policy are currently pushing schools away from ensuring that cultural and creative education is available to everyone. This is both inequitable and unacceptable.
Bragg, S., & Manchester, H. (2011). Creativity, school ethos and the Creative Partnerships Programme. London: Creativity, Culture and Education.
Cooper, L., Benton, T., & Sharp, C. (2011). The impact of Creative Partnerships on attainment and attendance in 2008-9 and 2009-10. Slough: National Foundation for Educational Research.
Department for Education. (2013). Art and design programmes of study: key stages 1 and 2. National curriculum in England. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/239018/PRIMARY_national_curriculum_-_Art_and_design.pdf: Department for Education.
Durbin, B., Butt, S., Saltini, F., Sharp, C., Teeman, D., & White, K. (2010). The impact of Creative Partnerships on school attainment and attendance. Slough: National Foundation for Educational Research.
McLellan, R., Galton, M., Steward, S., & Page, C. (2012). The impact of Creative Partnerships on the wellbeing of children and young people. Newcastle: Creativity, Culture and Education.
National Society for Art and Design Education. (2016). NSEAD Survey Report 2015-2016. http://www.nsead.org/downloads/survey.pdf. Accessed August 24, 2016: NSEAD.
Sorrell, J., Roberts, P., & Henley, D. (2014). The virtuous circle. Why creativity and culture count. London: Elliott &Thompson.
SQW Consulting, & Ipsos MORI. (2013). Evaluation of the Find Your Talent programme: Baseline quantitative findings from ten Find Your Talent patfinder programmes. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/le/182401/DFERR089.pdf: DCMS.
The Sutton Trust. (2014). Research brief: Extra-curricul inequality, . http://www.suttontrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Extracurricular-inequality.pdf: The Sutton Trust.
Thomson, P., Coles, R., Hallewell, M., & Keane, J. (2014). A critical review of the Creative Partnerships archive: how was cultural value understood, researched and evidenced? Swindon: Arts and Humanities Research Council.http://www.creativitycultureeducation.org/wp-content/uploads/A-Critical-Review-of-the-Creative-Partnerships-Archive.pdf