What is covid-19 teaching us we can do differently in arts and cultural education?

This pandemic is teaching us to think about things differently, to act differently and to work together to solve extremely complex problems on behalf of society, the world. The crisis is creating exceptional circumstances and causing a massive yet creative disruption in education. Social justice and creative learning continue to be crucially important to children’s wellbeing.

The common threads that run through the current lived experiences of our children and young people, are loss and anxiety, loss of freedom and social contact, loss of daily structure, and anxiety about family and friends. Some also feel a loss of identity at this time – their peers confirm the person they want to be and these meaningful human interactions are now absent. Daily, young people are listening to news reports of the death toll internationally. Collectively, we are flooding social media with digital content, with an overwhelming choice of ways to engage with the arts and home learning.

We will not return to any sense of normal but this may be a good thing, particularly in relation to schools and our current education system. There is a renewed focus on community, on the experience of time and space for artistic creation. We have the opportunity to create new and alternative models of education. We need to re-think.

This film poem commissioned by our charity, written by the spoken word poet Toby Thompson as a gift for our Patron Sir Ken Robinson (and the world) is still pertinent today. The current crisis helps to crystallise the important role of creative learning and teaching, striving for equality and inclusion – we need to re-imagine the kinds of schools or learning spaces we want to provide for our children.

Human beings have an infinite capacity for creativity. So maybe this is the time for drawing on our collective imagination to rethink our education system in response to this crisis, to place children and young people at the heart of this process, rather than national performance-led data. All children, no matter what their background or circumstance, deserve a high quality creative and cultural education.

Ken’s recent podcast invites such systemic change in our education system – he shares his perspective on how we can seize this moment to change how we teach children and think about the world they will inherit.

’People flourish when the culture is right … children are full of boundless potential.’

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