Leading Head says the Arts should be at the heart of school life

Posted on: 05 Mar 2015

A leading headmaster says the Arts are an 'essential part of the fabric of school life', giving pupils a valuable opportunity to express creativity. Arts should not be squeezed out by an ‘overly utilitarian vision of education’.

Michael Windsor, Headmaster of Reading Blue Coat School is also Chairman of the Society of Heads, a group of leading independent schools, which includes a number of major Arts schools in its membership, such as the Tring Park School for Performing Arts, The Royal Ballet School and the Yehudi Menuhin School.

Mr Windsor will make the remarks in the Chairman’s address at the Society of Heads Annual Conference at Whittlebury Hall, Whittlebury, Northamptonshire, on Monday 2 March:

"Why do we make such a commitment to the Arts? Why do we sustain this commitment when the Arts are often difficult to accommodate, requiring specialist facilities and staff and generous allocations of time?"

"I think we could all cite the benefits that we see on a daily basis in our schools. The growth in confidence that comes from performing in front of an audience of any size; the opportunities for collaboration and working as a team; the converse – that is the need to show self-discipline in working alone and motivating oneself; the opportunity for ‘flow’ as you lose yourself in your work and your own ideas; the need for concentration and discipline and to escape from distraction; taking risks; the sense of joy when it all comes off and equally important, learning to cope with the inevitable failures and false starts that are part and parcel of the creative process.

"The benefits are inestimable and an integral part of the learning which equips our students to be successful and happy adults.

"In a time when we share increasing concerns about the pressure on students and the consequent effects on their mental health, the Arts can offer an invaluable forum for self-expression, as well as the chance simply to have lots of fun."

He further says:

"The commitment to art, design, music, drama and dance is there to be seen in our schools but on a national scale, the creative arts do risk being squeezed out by an overly utilitarian vision of education; one that focuses excessively on the economic value that each product of schooling might contribute, as well as a particular focus on easily measurable outcomes, in an environment where money is tight and spending priorities have to be identified carefully."

He will further add:

"I only really feel that all is well at school if I can hear the sound of musicians rehearsing, a drama performance underway, or if I can wander into the Art or Design departments and see pupils lost in their work."