Why the arts

Why the arts header

Teaching in and through the arts, far from detracting from literacy and numeracy, should be seen as an enabler to driving up standards in academic priorities

Professor Dai Smith, Arts in Education in the Schools of Wales, 2013

How the arts help develop literacy and numeracy skills

There is a strong body of evidence that using the arts as a vehicle for quality teaching and learning increases motivation and improves performance. The arts can also be a great enabler in terms of developing pupils’ literacy and numeracy skills offering a range of lively contexts and engaging approaches through which to explore these skills in a natural way with your class. Take a look at some of the Rich Activities and Case Studies in this toolkit for inspiration.

Whether it’s reading a novel or poem; debating whether graffiti is art; writing a film review or listening to an interview with a composer, the teaching of the arts provides a rich vehicle for developing literacy skills. Opportunities to apply numeracy skills through arts activities don’t always present themselves as readily but many of the creative activities shared in this toolkit demonstrate how the arts can offer meaningful contexts within which to explore and develop numeracy skills. From learning about shapes and patterns in visual art and dance at Foundation Phase to measuring time frames in a film clip at Key Stage 2 to costing and budgeting for an arts event at Key Stage 3, there are countless imaginative ways to bring numeracy to life in real contexts through the arts.

How Artists and Arts Organisations can support your work in school

Whether you’re a specialist teacher of the arts or not, you’ll find a vibrant arts and culture sector outside the school gates keen to use their creative expertise to support you address your current teaching and learning challenges. So if you’re after fresh inspiration to deliver aspects of the LNF or would benefit from specific support in an arts subject, take a look at the directory of arts organisations in the resources zone to see who’s near you.

From short, half-day visits to sustained partnerships over an a term / academic year, arts organisations and artists can offer an array of provision and support to schools in response to your needs. Here are some examples of the different ways that you could work with artists:

  • collaborative classroom work in arts subjects (e.g. music, literature, dance, drama, arts and design, film) to raise attainment and bring in specialist expertise (e.g. in composing, writing, choreography, performance);
  • on-site learning experiences in non-arts / cross-curricular contexts (e.g. to support the development of literacy and numeracy/ to explore history through drama)
  • off-site experiences to enrich classroom learning and understanding; gain inspiration from professional work (this includes visits to performances, galleries, museums);
  • Mentoring and training / skills sharing;
  • Teaching resources  
  • To provide an insight into possible career opportunities in the creative industries and learn about pathways to education, training and employment in the arts.

What are the Benefits of Partnership Working?

Working in partnership with an arts or cultural partner can bring a variety of benefits to schools:

Benefits to students include:

  • Creative Development: hands on opportunities for young people to be creative and develop their creative skills
  • Inspiration: working with professional artists
  • Engagement: trying new things, enhancing learning, developing new passions
  • Exploration: connecting with new organisations, experiencing new places
  • Confidence building: having creative / artistic talent recognised by a professional; building skills, increasing curiosity and the confidence to visit cultural/heritage settings; encouraging young people to believe in their creative identity

Benefits to teachers include:

  • Inspiration: professional development; learning from the artist or arts organisation through co-delivery or INSET training
  • Confidence building: developing and increasing skills and knowledge
  • Challenging ideas: working differently with students
  • Legacy: through staff development, knowledge and skills are retained in school and contribute to future work (with or without the artist or arts organisation)

Benefits to the school:

  • Exploring issues, instigating change: partnerships can support the School Development Plan or School Improvement Plan
  • Improving performance and results: through engagement and enjoyment
  • Family engagement: new opportunities to involve families with school/ learning
  • Access to external professionals who can enhance provision

Benefits to the artists and arts organisation:

  • Thinking differently: about practice and/or collections
  • Learning from staff and students: new approaches, new ideas, fresh responses to their creative work
  • Reaching/ building new audiences

Partnership working can also offer other areas of mutual benefit, such as the sharing of skills between school and arts organisations, including pooling resources.

Excerpt from ‘Partnerships’, Section 4 of A New Direction’s Teachers’ Toolkit. The toolkit is designed to help you and your school more effectively use and promote the arts and cultural education as a critical component of a balanced, exciting curriculum, and can be downloaded here