Arts in Education – Janah’s Blog

Youth Board member, Janah talks about the subject of Arts in Education and the work the Without Walls event did to make change in education.

Hi there! My name is Janah, I’m 19 and I’m currently a second-year student at University of Leeds studying a BA in Global Creative Industries- so it’s easy to say I’m a creative at heart. I’m also a member of the Youth Board here at The Mighty Creatives, so I’ve been involved in the whole process of planning, curating and installing the Without Walls exhibition. I’ve also had the opportunity to lead a provocation workshop for professionals working with young people on the subject of Arts in Education- a topic that I am particularly passionate about.

The session aimed to give a voice to the views and experiences of young people accessing the arts in the education system in all settings and stages. In my own experience of mainstream education, creative subjects are often treated as inferior to academic ones, and this sentiment is shared by many young people across the UK. This problem is exacerbated at secondary school as looming exams heighten academic pressure and more emphasis is placed on core studies. But creative secondary schools are not optional: they are a necessity. Creativity was not only my chosen career path- it was also the saving grace for my wellbeing and sense of identity during harder school years. What’s more, in a job market where creativity is one of the skills most highly sought-after by employers across all sectors, there is a clear need for creativity to be fully integrated into young people’s learning.  In places where the arts are encouraged, they are often treated as solely supplementary: an outlet for the stress of ‘serious’ academic studies, leaving their inherent value unacknowledged.

The fight for youth access to the arts within the education system is not new. With this year marking 40 years since the publication of the influential report The Arts in Schools, there’s no better time than now to discuss the way that arts are treated in the education system. This report outlined some of the issues and challenges creativity continued to face in education, despite the booming contribution the arts bring to the economy and the extensive evidence of the benefit they have on physical and mental wellbeing. Four decades on, these challenges are still widespread, with GCSE and A-level creative entries in a steep decline and the vision proposed by The Arts in Schools of creativity being both valued and accessible in every school still far from reality.

Through our discussions during the Arts in Education workshop, one thing became clear: there is a large number of passionate individuals who want to make real change in the education system, but they face various barriers in their journey towards this vision. Through our work with Without Walls, we aimed to identify these barriers and mobilise those in power to take small practical steps to overcome them, so that we can reach a world in which young people are free to explore their creative voices, without barriers and Without Walls.