The pursuit of happiness: how the arts are essential to childrens’ experience of school
Conference concludes that arts-based learning is vital.
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.
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.