Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Ceisteanna (26)

Tom Neville


26. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the way in which creative schools will put the arts and creativity at the heart of children's and young person’s lives. [9871/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (7 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Culture)

I want to ask the Minister about the way in which creative schools will put the arts and creativity at the centre of the lives of children and young people.

On 12 February I launched Scoileanna Ildánacha-Creative Schools. This pilot initiative is a vital element of the recently launched creative youth plan and a cornerstone of pillar 1 of the Government's Creative Ireland programme.

Creative Schools is being led by the Arts Council, with support from my Department and the Department of Education and Skills.  Up to 150 schools across the country will participate in the pilot project and work with Creative Associates to develop their own unique programmes of arts and creative work, connecting them to the full range of local and regional cultural resources and opportunities.

Creative associates are artists, creative practitioners and educators. They are recruited by the Arts Council, which will support each school in the development and implementation of its plan and forge partnerships with the wider arts and cultural community. In addition, all schools will receive a range of supports, including a once-off grant of €2,000 and training for teachers in the school. Interested schools can find information on how to register and apply on the Arts Council website. This measure is one of 18 contained in the creative youth plan, which will be progressed over the next two years in partnership with the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Arts Council. At this plan's core is a firm belief that creativity and culture should be at the heart of education for all our young people. I look forward to working with all our key partners to deliver for our children and young people.

I welcome the initiative and stress the need for the creative arts to have a profile within the education system. Throughout the years arts subjects have often been seen as the Cinderella of subjects within the system. Children who have difficulties with other parts of the school curriculum may find expression through arts. I am not only talking about visual arts, but performance arts and music as well. Arts education should be broadened into as expansive a programme as possible. There are approximately 150 schools in the pilot scheme and I encourage schools to apply. We should broaden this out because, as I said in the House before, the arts allow people, who may not be able to do so academically or through psychomotor skills, which involve the more practical subjects, to express themselves. Having arts in their education also leads to the development of their emotional well-being.

I accept the points the Deputy made. The Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Bruton's Department and my Department did extensive work on this initiative. It is a pilot project which I hope can be rolled out. The closing date for applications is 5 March 2018. The Creative Ireland team in my Department held 39 public meetings. Both Departments felt that mainstream teaching of and learning the arts as a part of general education need to be intertwined in some way. We are hoping that schools which apply for this initiative will benefit from learning through the arts. As the Deputy said, the arts have been the Cinderella subjects in the past, although I hope that will change.

The schools are selected using the following criteria: benefits for learning and development; capacity for participation; the voice of children and young people; and the need to include a range of schools. There will be several different types of schools included.

According to research, the creative arts foster the development of children's cognitive abilities. Exploring and participating in creative play triggers the use of children's imaginations, which in turn stimulates and expands their mental capacities. Given this insight and what has been recognised in schools, and coupled with the 300 hours of emotional well-being work which has been added to the education system, I ask that the arts remain a priority in the educational system. This particularly concerns funding. As we have seen in the past, if the country hits hard economic times, one of the first areas to be cut is the arts. We need to reverse that trend and change this type of psychology in looking at the arts. We need to give the arts the profile they deserve. It is often difficult to explain the benefits of the arts. Those benefits are enormous and very difficult to put into words. The momentum is building, which I welcome, and we must keep that focus.

I refer to the programme of artists working in schools, which was developed by the previous Government. I cannot understand why this is not being rolled out to all schools in the country and, in particular, to DEIS schools where creative artistic work is absolutely essential to children's social and academic formation. Can the Minister explain why many DEIS schools will have to wait beyond 2020 for this initiative?

In terms of impartiality, and this is a pilot initiative, the assessment team will seek to select a diverse range of schools. That will include primary and post-primary schools and urban and rural schools across different geographic areas, including DEIS schools. It is anticipated that every school will eventually get to participate. However, the pilot will include DEIS schools, Irish language schools, Youthreach centres and special schools. As I said earlier, the closing date is 5 March 2018.

Alluding to what Deputy Neville said earlier about the arts in schools, the creative associate will support and be the liaison between the Departments and the schools. The associate will be key to how this pilot project actually works. The project will include many different activities. One example might be developing young people's critical thinking skills by working with a theatre critic to respond to a performance at a local theatre. It could involve a writer working with parents, teachers and children on storytelling, to improve their engagement with reading. It could involve an animator and a coder working with disengaged young people on how to create video games based on their interests. It could explore issues of transition from primary to post-primary education through the composition of music. The scheme could involve a visual artist working with teachers to improve their confidence in using visual arts in the classroom.