The implementation of the early learning goals for the foundation stage and the revised national curriculum will be upon us in September. QCA has produced guidance to help early-years practitioners and teachers ensure children benefit fully from the educational experiences offered by the arts. Curriculum guidance for the foundation stage shows how firm foundations can be laid for children's creative development and new guidance, produced jointly with the Arts Council for England, shows how working with arts professionals can enhance children's experiences.
The curriculum guidance was published in May. It puts great emphasis on the fundamental role creativity plays in successful learning and looks at how art, music, dance, role play and imaginative play contribute to children's early experience. The guidance looks at the characteristics of effective learning and teaching and gives examples of the "stepping stones" that lead towards the early learning goals.
There are examples of what children do at each stepping stone and how practitioners can help children to progress towards the goals at the end of the reception year. The goals for creativity address the full range of children's artistic experience: exploring colour, texture, shape, form and space; exploring sound, singing and matching movement to music; using imagination, responding to their environment and communicating their ideas and feelings.
Developing children's creativity is vital because it helps children to make connections between different areas of learning and helps to underpin the whole curriculum.
Children's entitlement to a range of arts experiences is a key theme of new guidance produced by QCA and the Arts Council for England. "From Policy to Partnership" identifies two main ways in which schools can ensure they meet this entitlement: by clearly defining an arts policy and developing partnerships with the world of the professional arts and creative industries.
Developing an arts policy provides an opportunity for shools to describe their current provision and explain their commitment to the arts. It also provides a framework for allocating resources. Its core aims might include ensuring equality of opportunity, effectiveness and efficiency through the best use of resources and forging links with the community to strengthen and widen provision within the school.
The policy itself could include a statement of the school's commitment, the time given to the arts, in and outside the formal curriculum, the range of experiences offered, the expertise of staff, facilities available and plans for development.
The guidance includes practical advice on how to develop arts partnerships with the world of professional arts and the creative industries. These links can provide a key to improving standards by raising expectations and demonstrating excellence. The range and depth of opportunities can be expanded beyond what the school alone could provide, with access to specialist facilities and practising arts professionals. Partnerships also give teachers opportunities for professional development.
Other aspects of the curriculum can also benefit. Partnerships can support the development of key skills such as working with others. Aspects of PSHE and citizenship - developing pupils' sense of identity, appreciation of other cultures and encouraging participation - can also be met. The arts and creative industries are Britain's fourth largest employer so opportunities for work-related learning can also be created through effective partnerships.
The artists and arts organisations involved also gain enormous benefits from partnerships, developing education programmes and long-term relationships with audiences and visitors. Those artists who usually work in isolation find the opportunity to share and develop their creative ideas invaluable.
Tony Knight is principal officer for music, the arts and culture for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, 29 Bolton Street, London W1Y 7PD. Tel: 020 7509 5555