25 - 26 October 2014

Devoted & Disgruntled - Arts And Sports In Education: Luxury Or A Necessity? How Do We Build An Education System We Really Want?

Festival Village, Southbank Centre, London, SE1 8XX

10am - 5pm

An invitation from Jo Mackie:

I’m a theatre producer with a background in Arts Education. Last October I got into a heated conversation on twitter about the proposed axing of ‘soft subjects’ such as Drama and PE from the National Curriculum. It was the culmination of various conversations I’d been having with teachers for the last 18 months about the numerous reforms happening in Education – and this felt like a step too far.

My mum was a brilliant and inspiring drama teacher, and I saw the impact she had on all the students under her care. I saw how drama could draw out an individual’s talent – whether acting on stage, managing a group of people, or creating a beautiful piece of music. There are so many – myself included - for whom the Arts and Sport have provided a way of engaging with the world. These subjects, more than anything else in the curriculum, provide vital ways of learning how to exist in a community of other people, with all the ongoing challenges and difficulties that brings, and I am alarmed about what will happen if they disappear from our schools – the missed opportunities, the loss of confidence-building activities, and the narrowing fields of expression their absence will mean for the next generation.  More than any of the countless educational reforms that have taken place, this proposed change has forced me to ask some fundamental questions about what values we really want to uphold in our education system, and how we should go about doing so.

I am lucky enough to be surrounded by people who want to change the world – from the artistic community I work in, to the impassioned educators I am proud to have in my family. From these people I have learned about the power of inspiration and the importance of empowerment – that you will not want to change the world if you are not inspired and that you can’t change the world if you are not empowered. We have had built for us a highly machinated education system that doesn’t hold these values as even worthwhile, let alone vital. I had many brilliant teachers when I was growing up, but the ones I hold dear are those that inspired me to see the world differently, or helped me understand my own humanity a little bit more and, by extension, the humanity of others. Knowledge and skills are vital but they are part of something more important - how to be a good human being. Kindness, compassion, confidence, courage, and a sense of justice - to name but a few – cannot be quantified and measured, and they are consequently being undervalued in a system ruled by box-ticking.

You might disagree with me - perhaps you are someone who believes in different values and you have a different vision for state education? Perhaps you think other subjects are far more important than arts and sport? Perhaps you are someone who can propose a truly happy medium? Perhaps you are someone with a different question to ask about education altogether?

Whether you're a teacher struggling to do the job you love through mountains of paperwork; a policy-maker trying to meet targets and quotas; a parent just wanting your child to succeed; an arts or sports practitioner with a passionate belief in the importance of what you do; a pupil who feels stuck in the middle of someone else’s argument; or someone who vehemently disagrees with all I have said and wants to have their say – I urge you to join me at an event that is about imagining change, making change and demanding change. This is a chance to work together on something we all care passionately about – a good education.

I hope to see you there!

Jo Mackie

Booking for this event has now closed.