Why schools should always value creativity in the classroom

Gwen Byrom, Headmistress at Loughborough High School, explains why she employed an artist in residence

Many people see science and the arts as distinct disciplines, but it is impossible to do either successfully if you are not able to think both creatively and analytically. This is one of the reasons why each year we welcome an artist in residence whose aim is to spark the pupils’ creativity and help them widen their knowledge across all subjects. 

Our artist in residency scheme began 2014 when we worked with mixed media artist Emily Notman, who uses the natural world as inspiration for her delicate textile pieces. Over the coming years, we intend to employ artists working with a diverse range of materials, so that each year we bring fresh ideas to the school. 

At the moment, we are hosting the talented ceramic potter Cisca Collins, who enhances our curriculum with pottery classes, while also helping out in the timetabled art classes. Her work extends beyond teaching the current cohort of pupils and the idea is that she helps equip staff in the art department with new skills in ceramics so that they can continue to share these after her residency has come to an end. Time and again, we have found our artists to be invaluable in offering a different perspective on lessons, and inspiration or feedback on an upcoming project. 

With a little creative thinking, there are endless possibilities, such as working with artists in the community and linking up with a local art gallery or university

Interestingly, the positive effects have been felt not just within the arts and craft subjects, but more broadly throughout the school. Learning about scientific discoveries, for example, is enhanced by understanding the cultural context in which they were discovered and results in a more rounded education.

Furthermore, the skills they learn in the arts permeate into all aspects of our pupils’ lives, and play an important role in personal growth. Take, for example, the performance side of art. Pupils develop a great deal of confidence in displaying, and sometimes justifying, their work to a critical audience. This is something that is essential not just for artists but also in the office or boardroom when they may be required to robustly defend their ideas. 

From a careers perspective, both Cisca and Emily have shown pupils at Loughborough High School that following your creative dreams can go hand in hand with business success. Our artists are happy to share some of their secrets when it comes to securing commissions or getting work displayed in galleries. Recently, Cisca told us how rewarding it is to be a role model to our young people, particularly when it comes to fostering self-belief, expression or opening up new career paths which they have previously never considered. 

Of course, employing an artist in residence is not always financially viable for schools, but there is no reason why all schools can’t benefit from similar schemes. With a little creative thinking, there are endless possibilities, such as working with artists in the community and linking up with a local art gallery or university. Often, artists are only too happy to showcase their work, and share their techniques with the next generation, so the result could well be a long and fruitful partnership. 

For more information, visit Loughborough High School’s website.


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