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The pursuit of happiness: how the arts are essential to childrens’ experience of school

Conference concludes that arts-based learning is vital.

By Thea King (Communications Coordinator, Royal Opera House Bridge)

2 May 2013 at 3.03pm | 2 Comments

How important is it that children are happy at school? Few people would argue that happiness is paramount, so why do we measure success by productivity and knowledge gained, rather than happiness and well-being?
A recent conference organized by Royal Opera House Bridge, one of ten national ‘Bridges’ that work across England to connect children and young people with great art and culture, explored innovative approaches to improving happiness through exposure to the arts.

The three speakers were Nic Marks, a statistician researching happiness; Martin Green, Head of Ceremonies for London 2012; and Louise Thomas, leader of the education programme at the Innovation Unit.

Each agreed that we should be prioritizing arts-based learning.

‘The arts are everything,’ said Martin. ‘We’ve got to stop thinking that the arts are some kind of luxury you do when you’ve found some time outside maths.’ And, after the success of the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies, ‘we can demonstrate it works on a really large scale.’

The speakers were of the opinion that cultural learning cannot be delivered effectively if we ignore happiness in schools. Encouraging it should be more of a priority than it is, said Nic, but not just for children. ‘Often teachers’ happiness is forgotten’, he said. ‘Happiness is contagious. If the teacher is very unhappy and closed, they’re not going to be as good a teacher as one who is happier. One way to make children happier at school is to make sure their teachers are happier.’

Education policy often restricts and dictates what schools can do, but Louise says it is time to challenge that: ‘The model of the teacher-learner hierarchy comes from the idea – which has now proved to be false – that learning is about delivering knowledge into empty boxes. But learning is a live, dynamic process. Our formal learning still exists in this hierarchical constraint that doesn’t reflect that.’

We will be uploading audio highlights from the conference in the next couple of weeks. If you would like us to let you know when it is ready you can join Royal Opera House Bridge on Twitter.

Royal Opera House Bridge is a three-year, publicly funded Arts Council England project that helps to connect children and young people with great art and culture.

By Thea King (Communications Coordinator, Royal Opera House Bridge)

2 May 2013 at 3.03pm

This article has been categorised Learning and tagged children, curriculum, learning, ROH Bridge, Royal Opera House Bridge, school, teachers

This article has 2 comments

  1. Linda Loenza responded on 5 May 2013 at 1:47am Reply

    Yes it's time to challenge education policy and remove this perpetual restrictive approach.
    And happy teachers are the most liberating resource for our children!!!!

  2. Gillian Miller responded on 4 August 2013 at 4:03pm Reply

    I agree the arts are so improtant. My first experience of music and the arts was wallking around to classical music marching etc I had just started school at 4, then at 4.5 I went to ballet class, I enjoyed being in panto etc, I have been a dance teacher wth IDTA since 1976 I love the arts and am currently working on a project to promote dance and movement etc. to pre schoolers.

    Gillian Miller

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