Arts, education and other learning settings: a research digest

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland,
31 October 2008, Northern Ireland

The Arts Council is delighted to announce a new resource which makes available, in summary form, a very wide range of research, including a number of action research projects, undertaken in the field of arts-in-education in Ireland. While the focus is on arts in schools, other settings also feature such as, arts in healthcare, arts in youth work and arts in communities. It includes hard data, oireachtas reports, project evaluations, policy frameworks and guidelines, and a host of reports from many long-term projects undertaken by local authorities, cultural institutions, arts organisations and education providers. The digest contains summaries (250 words) of seventy-two publications of which fourteen are summarised in detail (1,200 words). It spans an almost thirty-year timeframe of 1979 to 2007.

The digest registers that ‘partnership’, as between artist, child and teacher and as between schools, local arts and education organisations and funding bodies (local and national) is a key feature of much of the excellent work described and analysed. This fits well with the Arts Council’s current strategy Partnership for the Arts 2006-2010. Children and young people are identified within Partnership for the Arts as an important constituency, with a wide range of programmes and supports in place for both ‘in-schools’ and ‘out-of-schools’ activity.

The publication is emblematic of a growing field of arts practice that promotes the interaction of artists and arts organisations of all disciplines with children, young people and teachers to create experiences in the arts that are often deeply enriching and have lasting effect. The collective experience points up how critical a resource time is. Good planning, adequate preparation, and a commitment to empowering children and teachers require time. Challenges are evident, one being the professional development of artists and of teachers so they can, separately or together, create contexts in which children can explore their own identity and the world around them in real, virtual and imagined terms. The National Economic and Social Forum’s (NESF) draft policy on The Arts, Cultural Inclusion and Social Cohesion (2006) identified that “concerns have been raised about the level of expertise available among teachers and within schools to adequately implement the arts curriculum”. It went on to suggest that it would be “useful to have more links between artists, arts organisations and schools to do this“. The projects and initiatives described within the research digest do exactly this. The digest demonstrates the level of untapped resources that could be made available to future interaction between the arts and education.

The keystone document is the 1979 Arts Council report, known as the Benson Report, which described and analysed what it said on its cover: The Place of the Arts in Irish Education. This, truly, agenda-setting report was a guiding light, pointing the way for the Arts Council and for an increasing number of agencies as well as hundreds of artists and organisations who made working for and with young people, and their teachers, an important and sometime central part of their work.,b305qLjp