Jodie Cariss works as part of Forever Curious, a creative initiative set up to work with local east London primary schools. One of the many things they offer is a series of “buddy up” sessions, where industry professionals share stories with a view to make them come to life. Below, Cariss writes how increasingly important it is that these initiatives exist in a climate where cuts are rife and asks: What next for a generation let down by state funding for the arts?
The world feels messy. Politically unstable. A growing sense of slowly mounting chaos and fear over the unknown. One of the UK’s worst-hit areas is the education system. Teachers are leaving in droves. The National Audit Office has tasked mainstream schools with making £3 billion in savings by 2019 – that’s around £800 per pupil. Nearly a quarter of the teachers who qualified since 2011 have already quit the job.
Inevitably, money for creativity and the arts within the curriculum has been fiercely reduced, in some areas to non-existence. Our schools are facing a scarcity of teachers – or at least, many with depleted energy after meeting growing demands – and art cupboards with just one ream of A4 paper for 900 students. I’ve seen it with my own eyes in a Hackney school.
So what happens to a generation of young people, particularly the 4.1 million who are classed as underprivileged, with limited opportunities at home, and fewer at school?
There will be a rise in adolescents with behavioural issues, leading to a less mentally-well adult generation. We know creativity has a direct correlation to the way we feel and how we express emotion, and poor mental health is already on the rise, with one in four people experiencing a problem each year.
Without sounding like the doctor of doom, the education crisis will pave the way for social and creative regression. Why? Because creativity is fundamental to the way we understand the world, form and keep relationships and develop our own sense of self. The ability to create, which begins in early development as play and forms the foundation of the way we find meaning in later life, is essential for a balanced and stimulated generation.