Art and Design Research Review: the launch at the Victoria and Albert Museum
We were lucky enough to be able to welcome guests from the world of art education to the Victoria and Albert museum to launch our Art and Design Research Review. Here are some of the discussions and questions and answers about the review.
Tristram Hunt: Morning. Good morning everyone. My name is Tristram Hunt, director of the Victoria and Albert Museum and it's such a pleasure to welcome you all today for the launch of the art and design research review. The V&A is very proud to support Ofsted’s important work not only because of Amanda is a trustee of the Victoria and Albert Museum, but we're committed to encouraging and renewing creative practice in our classroom.
We wholeheartedly support the education inspection framework which commits to a full and engaging curriculum. I would just like to introduce you very briefly to the Victoria and Albert Museum, the world's greatest museum of art, design, and performance. For over 170 years the V&A has stressed the importance of the creative impulse in all of us. At the foundation of our mission is Henry Cole, our first director, was to be an impressive schoolroom for everyone, like a book whose pages were always open. He also called us a refuge for destitute collections. Behind the Victoria and Albert Museum was the Mechanics Institute movement of the 1830s and the system of design schools that emerged in the mid-19th century.
The South Kensington museum as we were initially was the hub of this design school movement, training teachers, reforming curriculums and lending the collections across the country. So a bel in the democracy of knowledge, and the belief in the teaching of design and sharing our collections for design teaching has always been an essential part of our mission.
One of the interesting histories of the V&A is that whether it was the gaslighting we had in the gallery, so working people could come here after work, whether it was a cafe and restaurant so it was an enjoyable place to come, whether it was labels next to the objects so you didn't have to buy a catalogue. All of this belief in the democratising of knowledge was absolutely essential to the mission of the V&A. Today museum learning is embedded across our sites, activating the V&A’s collection as a source but we love this idea of us being this, this treasury of art and science to encourage creativity and innovation today. 40% of our visitors describe themselves as from the creative industries, but we also know that our mission has to extend beyond South Kensington.
We're very concerned, as I know Ofsted is, about the fall in the number of young people taking design and technology. So we've created two programmes focused on key stage three and Key Stage Four to encourage the take up of art and design and design and technology, ‘Design lab nation’ our secondary schools programme focuses on key stage four saw 441 students and 87 teachers taking part from 21 schools across six regions in the UK. And what we do there is we share our collections. We work with local museums, we work with local schools, and then we have a programme called VNA innovate, which is our national Schools Challenge, where we offer free and accessible online resources to every state funded secondary school in England and that's becoming a really important part of our connection with design and technology teachers across the country. So my message is very simple this morning, that the V&A is here as your partner at Ofsted, and we're here to help in whatever capacity we can. Thank you for being here at the V&A. Amanda.
Amanda Spielman: Good morning. And it is hard to imagine a better place in the V&A to be talking about art and design education and a big thank you to Tristram for allowing us to be here.
And since all of you have chosen to be here, I'm quite sure that you already share my belief in the extraordinary enriching power of this strand of education. You don't need me to rehearse all the excellent reasons why children should study art. I suspect most of you could talk about it quite happily all day and beyond. More than 40 years on, I can still remember three paintings that did the most to open my eyes and mind in my childhood. The first was some by Salvador Dali, Christ of St. John of the Cross viewed from above. That's in the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow, which is where I grew up. The second was Fellini, the Venetian Doge, Leonardo Loretta in the National Gallery.
And the third was a riverside seen by Corot with his astonishing skill in conveying light. Each of these has influenced what I've learned since. A teacher blogger who publishes as Solomon Kingsnorth illustrates the enriching power of knowledge of art as well as practical skills rather well. Forgive me for quoting him at length. Person A and person B are standing outside Rouen cathedral, looking up at the spire. A series of thoughts and impressions pop up in each one's respective consciousness, like paints on a canvas.
Person A: big church. Nice. Looks like some others I've seen. Not paying to go in. What time's lunch? Person B: looks Gothic, different to the baroque cathedrals I’ve seen. I can see and feel what moved Monet to paint it so many times. My mind's conjuring up impressions of those images now which seem to be intermingling with the cathedral itself. The ground beneath my feet has an ancient significance. There was a church on this site before the cathedral was built. It perished in the Viking raids, and apparently some of the windows are still decorated with stained glass from the 13th century. Famous for a special cobalt blue colour - is that it there?
We are metres away from a tomb containing the heart of Richard the Lionheart. My own heart is racing. I'm going in!
As Kingsnorth puts it, if you’re person B, you have a private tour guide to the universe living in your brain, ready to seconds notice to give you a plethora of information which will enrich your experience of everyday life. And yet, it's so easy for art to be seen as something of an afterthought. But of course, it rightly has its place in the national curriculum for all children up to age 14, and for many beyond that, and that is as it should be.
As the national curriculum document says, Art Craft and Design embody some of the highest forms of human creativity. High quality art and design education should engage, inspire and challenge equipping people with the knowledge and skills to experiment, invent and create their own works of people's progress. They should be able to think critically and develop a more rigorous understanding of Art and Design. And they should also know how art and design both reflect and shape our history and contribute to the culture the creativity and wealth of our nation.
These aims are ambitious, especially in the context of the increasingly limited amount of time that most schools are allocating to art, but they are important nonetheless. And the specified subject content is tantalisingly brief, less than half a page for each of key stages one, two and three.
Viewed one way, this leaves a satisfying amount of freedom for schools to shape their curriculum and teaching. But it can also make life harder, especially for primary schools, which most mostly won't have a specialist art teacher.
In my time as Chief Inspector, I've placed great importance on curriculum. This reflects an understanding of the true value of breadth of curriculum and also a recognition that the content and processes of education are valuable in themselves, not just a means to a graded outcome.
In this context, a series of research reviews is serving two purposes. They provide a clear and grounded platform for our conception of quality. We use this for the inspection judgments that we must make. But the reviews also help schools by laying out the factors that can contribute to high quality and authentic education.
The reviews are rigorous but clear. They've proved to be extremely popular with schools in that they've been downloaded hundreds of 1000s of times. In the context of Art and Design, this review explores the practical knowledge such as how to draw paint or sculpt and it also discusses the theoretical knowledge such as the history of art and it includes the disciplinary knowledge, the big questions - what is art? How do we judge and value it? Setting art alongside other subjects in this series shows how we are recognising its value and makes it clear that art doesn't sit beneath or apart from the rest of the curriculum. And it has other benefits too. We've heard from schools, how the coherence of the series is helping with wider curriculum thinking and planning, illuminating the parallels and linkages between subjects as well as the fundamental differences.
Of course, there are practical constraints. We know how hard-pressed schools are, and that there's less taught time for art and design. But I do take heart from the fact that exam entries have held more or less steady through all the changes of the past 20 years, showing that young people's willingness and interest is not eroding. They want to grow and flex their creativity. They want to need the richness and excitement and satisfaction that art and design bring.
The subject is also fortunate in having the wonderful work that comes from the wealth of subject associations and artistic institutions who do so much working with young people directly and also working with teachers to help them strengthen curriculum and teaching.
And I'll finish by reminding people what I've said in the past about the purposes of education. Of course, education must prepare young people for work, but it must also broaden their minds and their horizons. It should help them to enjoy our culture and to use their creativity to add to it. It should help them hold a conversation, not just a job. And ultimately, it should help them to contribute to the advancement of civilization, not just economic development.
Thank you and now I'm going to hand over to Heather Fern who is senior His Majesty's inspector who is our curriculum unit.
Heather Fearn: We have a proud tradition of publishing thematic reports in Ofsted and one thing that our chief inspector has done since her arrival and with the implementation of our new education inspection framework, is that emphasis on the breadth of curriculum across subjects and prioritising thematic work, which explores the breadth of that curriculum, because of course we have a great range of insights that we gain from the work that we do, and that we can share. We want to ensure that our inspectors when they go into schools, that what they understand by high quality art education is shared between inspectors so that each school gets the same experience and the school is understood the same way whichever inspector it is that visits.
It's also really important that what it is that inspectors are thinking about a high-quality education across subjects, and in this case, in art, but that's the best possible conception of what is a quality education. And that brings us to our research review series. And the purpose of that research review series is to reflect on what is a high-quality art education. And we can do that by thinking about what's really important to us about art. And publishing and having a launch for it, is that we want to be very clear about the importance of the range of subjects and Amanda has made that point already in talking about the breadth. It could be that we could have a very narrow way of thinking about a quality education across Maths, English - gaining qualifications in core subjects, but actually an education should be so much more. Whenever we learn something new, we can only make sense of it using what we already know. And that has a really important curriculum implication at a granular level, because that means every time you want pupils to learn something new, they need to have what they need prior to make sense of that.
So the curriculum is vitally important, because we need pupils that are going to gradually make progression towards the kind of expertise that we would like for them. In the case of art appreciation that we talked about, but also the capacity to create in a range of artistic forms. And so that now takes us to the point where I can hand it over to Adam, who is our art subject lead, is going to talk a little bit more about the report.
Adam Vincent: Art is a rich and varied set of practices central to human civilization. Its purposes, materials and methods are always evolving. It's closely related to design and craft and graphics, typography, textiles and ceramics and the boundaries between these have changed over time. But just as Art Craft and Design are wide ranging so too are the ideas, perspectives and approaches to art education.
The education inspection framework, states that a high-quality education includes an ambitious curriculum that gives pupils the not the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life.
It has been reported that there's been a decline in both the quality and quantity of art in primary schools. This may be due to a decline in funding schools focusing more on core subjects and primary teachers lack of skills, training and experience to teach high quality art curriculum. Teachers need the tools to be able to do this important job.
Despite these challenges, at key stages four and five pupils have the opportunity to study art and experimenting. The creative industries in the UK make a significant contribution of 115.9 billion pounds in 2019 alone, and many roles in industries require qualification and a subject related to art and design. And often art is the only subject of its type studied in school. By studying art, we give pupils the skills that can be developed to become not only artists but also designers and engineers, creators and to develop their imaginations to express themselves in a variety of visual forms.
Art education allows pupils to understand, appreciate and contribute to human innovation, imagination and thoughts. That high-quality art education can help pupils to appreciate and interpret art, communicate their thoughts and feelings or create artworks themselves. High quality art directors will give pupils examples of diversity in art in from different areas of making, including Art Craft and Design but produced around the world.
I am reminded of a quote from William Morris. ‘I do not want art for a few any more than I want education for a few or freedom for a few’.
Chris Jones: Good morning everyone. My name is Chris Jones. I'm Ofsted’s Director of Strategy and engagement. Thank you all for coming onto our panel. We have Amanda Spielman, His Majesty's Chief Inspector, Dr. Richard Kueh, Richard is Ofsted’s Deputy Director for Research and Evaluation. And you've just heard from Adam Vincent who is also one of His Majesty's inspectors. And finally Heather Fearn is a senior His Majesty's inspector, she leads Ofsted’s curriculum unit as you've just been hearing. Great panel.
Why does Ofsted continue to have a focus on the breadth of curriculum, particularly when we know post pandemic post lockdown? There is there is such an emphasis in schools on getting children back up to speed on English and maths on the core, the core job, what do you think is so important about the breadth depth curriculum, including art and design?
Amanda Spielman: Everything that we know about children's pandemic experience has shown us how much they've lost, not just in terms of progress in the sort of core academic subjects of English and maths, but also in their social development, in development of language, forms of communication, and the loss of all the richness that comes from the wider curriculum, from extracurricular activities, from all the other activities that many children take part in outside school. That sort of loss for many of the wider cultural activities, things that enable them to practice develop creative skills of all kinds. Yes, a few children are wonderfully self-motivated and use the opportunity but for many, that wasn't possible, re-establishing that and all the satisfaction that comes from it's, is actually a way of reinforcing the job schools have in the English, maths, maths, science, those other parts of the curriculum. I think everything we know suggests that they are in fact, mutually reinforcing. The challenge post pandemic for schools has been to how to how to use that more limited time that many children are having in education, how to how to maximise the value they get from it, not just try to skate across the top of everything that they would otherwise have done, but to say, what are the right choices? What are the trade offs? What are the things that we absolutely must protect? What are the things that if we have to choose the less important than the simplistic choice of dump everything on the creative side would be such a bad one for children?
Richard Kueh: What I think this review helps with is how to make the tough choices that I think many people have been faced with over the last couple of years and are continuing to be faced with.
Richard Kueh: f we think about pupils at the earliest stages of reading, for example, they need broad background knowledge to be able to inform the words that they read, once able to decode they need that broad background knowledge, concepts that are furnished in their minds from history concepts like Empire, or civilization, or from art, tone - to give meaning to the words that they're reading. And that's not just at the earliest stages of some of these core subjects. But if we think about a focus on GCSE English literature, for example, my own background subject is religious education. And if we think about some of the texts that pupils study, Macbeth, or Jekyll and Hyde. Some of the rich imagery that we see in those in those texts can only really be explained if you've got broad background knowledge of concepts of Sin, redemption, atonement. Many of these come from other subjects in the curriculum as well.
Chris Jones: Adam, you said you were a primary school teacher, you recognise the challenges that there are in primary schools and in teaching art also other subjects without a subject specialism. Tell us a bit more about how the schools you've worked in have handled that pressure?
Adam Vincent: Primary schools in particular, are rarely subject specialist particularly for subjects like art. They do need to be very creative. They need to think about how to work with organisations such as the National Association of Art Education, they need to think about how to work with other groups such as Access Art, who I believe her here as well, but also tapping into that wealth of knowledge that is available to them from places like the V&A and the Tate, but also from local galleries and museums that will be close to them and will offer something that reflects their local community. It's really important that time is given, often, particularly for younger children. The adults take time to think about what it is that is being taught that it's not just piecemeal, that it's not a scattergun approach that adults have considered what the curriculum is and how it can be broken down.
Hi, I'm Sarah Bull, I'm Senior Content Editor at The Key. What is a school leader is meant to do with this report? How can they implement your findings practically quickly, efficiently? Really, what could be somebody's first port of call, first next step?
Amanda Spielman: Leaders need to give time to the subjects. And I think every subject’s review has said time needs to be given consideration that within their staff team, and that sufficient training and support for those members of staff so that they have those tools to be able to teach that subject well. And that the subject is thought of as though what are those endpoints? How are they going to be broken down for those pupils so that they learn sufficient skills and knowledge.
I will add to that, what our research can do, it's actually school we give schools an immense amount of freedom to choose that that art and design national curriculum, that has a tremendous amount of space, and a lot of choices that must be made. The reviews help to simplify those choices.
Adam Vincent: Very careful not to say ‘this is a curriculum’ that ‘this is what you must do in order to reach an Ofsted judgement’. But these are some examples of where we've seen good practice. These are some examples of what we might expect to be seeing.
Michelle Gregson from the National Society for Education in Art and Design. It was really great to hear Adam recognise that there's so much debate in the community and a multiplicity of approaches. And also great to hear Amanda recognise the strength, the tenacity of the subject that appeals to young people. We have concerns about however, a kind of creeping orthodoxy that teachers tell us is driven by fear of risk and a desire to achieve results in high stakes assessment by just using tried and tested formulas. We think that's quite a big risk to a creative subject. How does the review give support and guidance for anyone who wants to avoid orthodoxy?
Richard Kueh: The assessment tail shouldn't wag the curriculum dog. The substance of what people study in the subject should be authentic in an assessment context as well. We also talk within the review that two key terms, which we hope that if theorisation around this might actually be a useful shared language for art subject leaders, art practitioners, where we talk about the importance of convergent and divergent end goals of aspects of the art curriculum, that at some points of the curriculum, it's entirely appropriate that pupils work towards a similar shared goal, where they're practising particular techniques or forms of expression, for example, where they're learning the nuts and bolts, but also that there are determined points within the curriculum where the end goals are necessarily divergent, that we would expect pupils as part of that subject to be able to produce or understand or discuss art in in very rich and diverse ways. So I think those two aspects I hope will chime in with your sense of what you're saying.
Adam you’ve spoken already about how schools can access museums, what can museums do to help?
Adam Vincent: I think museums do need to think about what are the biggest levers they can pull? So if they are working with one small group of children, yes, that's wonderful and important. But actually, they work with the adults who work with those children, they can have so much more of an impact so much more of an effect. And by supporting and giving those teachers those skills and knowledge then they can have that impact on supporting pupils to improve their artistic knowledge and ability.
One small reflection as well, which is that in as much as we hope that school leaders and school practitioners might wish to engage with our research review, it will be wonderful as well if those in the museum area would also be interested about it to learn what might constitute high quality curriculums in schools and therefore, they can see their place within that for that bigger picture, thinking through the forms of knowledge that Adam was talking about before - practical, theoretical and disciplinary where they have using art, who don't know about it, who've got a maths degree and a physics degree, find the connections, find the ways to, to use that.
I think we're really passionate about how teaching and teachers and hooking into that and giving confidence can really help deliver then whether it's oracy, whether it's resilience, whether it's all the life skills, rather than content that you're looking for in outstanding schools.
I'm the Head of Education here at the V&A museum. And I also just wanted to echo a lot of the things that are saying about the rules of museums when we do this. One of the things that we've also been really pushing hard is leveraging our work with the creative industries to show real world examples of what one can do with creative education and not necessarily just careers in Art Design, Design and Technology, which are incredibly important, but also recognising how creativity is used across the field in all industries and it's all necessary. For example, last year, we had a live webinar with the physics team at CERN and I will always love this quote, of one of the lead physicists said ‘I have the most creative job in the world. I'm a physicist’. And they said, you know, this person was saying that she works in theoretical applications of this, she needs to be able to think creatively and she spoke very highly about how her art education is so important for her role in physics. And I think that's one of the roles that we need to take in museums and also in other kinds of creative applications of this, of how can we best leverage that link and show real world examples, not just to the students so they can you know, you can't be what you can't see, but also recognising to educators of why creativity is important.
Chris Jones: I will wrap up and say thank you very much to our panel. Just by way of closing we've been talking today about the art and design research review. We've also mentioned the first of our subject reports that has been published recently, in science. We will be publishing more subject reports over the next year and more. They will focus on the evidence gathered by inspectors about the quality of subjects education in schools as it stands today and we hope that this work continues to help subject leaders to provide high quality subjects education. I'll just run through some of the examples that we're going to be publishing over the next academic year so following this research review there'll be a subject report on art and design we will be talking about computing, English, geography, history, languages, maths, music, PE, RE and science and personal development including citizenship.