Scotland to stage Chicago arts pilot

25th February 2005 at 00:00
Schools across seven Scottish local authorities are set to benefit from a pound;1.2 million funding package to put art and culture at the centre of learning, Chicago-style.

The Chicago link has nothing to do with the world-famous musical featuring hot jazz and cold-blooded killers in Al Capone's hometown. Instead, pupils will pilot a programme inspired by the Chicago "arts impacting achievement" (AIA) project, which set out to reduce truancy by bringing artists into schools to team-teach with teachers and embed the arts more radically into learning and teaching.

According to the Scottish Arts Council, which is driving the "arts across the curriculum" pilot, the Chicago experiment has been found by academics and government agencies to have "achieved some remarkable results in educational terms".

The SAC told the parliamentary education committee's pupil motivation inquiry: "Improved school attendance, enhanced school ethos, enrichment of learning and understanding, improved pupil motivation and better test results have all been features of the positive evaluation arising from this project."

It added: "It has long been the wish of the Scottish Arts Council to test this model tailored to a Scottish educational context. The current climate of curricular flexibility, the commitment to creativity, enterprise and citizenship, and the publication of A Curriculum for Excellence by the Scottish Executive all point to this being the ideal time to find out how this kind of arts integration would work within our own system."

Trust and respect between artist and class teacher were key ingredients to the success of the project.

"It is very different from an artist-in-residence project where an artist might share his or her practice with pupils. It is about two professionals teaching and learning together," it stated.

The Scottish Executive is providing pound;840,000 plus evaluation costs, while the Arts Council and local authorities will come up with the remaining Pounds 360,000.

It stated: "The central rationale underpinning the whole arts across the curriculum project is increasing the performance of students. The Chicago model has shown that achievement in all curriculum areas (including, but not exclusively, in the expressive arts) improved when artists were involved in well planned team teaching with the class teacher."

The Executive emphasises that the project will be tailored to fit Scottish systems and to match national and local priorities. "Partnership working, thorough training for teachers and artists, quality planning time for artists and teachers as well as rigorous evaluation mechanisms will be key elements of the project in Scotland," it stated.

Schools will be introduced to the central concept of the "integrated curricular lesson". This aims to tie in core curriculum work with an artistic activity. Art and culture will be used to motivate students and deepen their understanding of a subject, while exposing them to an art form. The unit is planned and taught through an artist-teacher team.

The Scottish pilot will run for three years, and will establish itself in stages. It will be piloted in seven authorities: Dumfries and Galloway, East Ayrshire, Aberdeen, West Lothian, South Lanarkshire, Glasgow and East Renfrewshire.

Euan Robson, Deputy Education Minister, said: "We already know that some pupils at certain stages are not reaching their potential, often becoming disengaged and disinterested in their learning. That is why we are determined to explore new ways to ensure we reignite their enthusiasm and give them the opportunity to be the best they can be."

Mr Robson hoped the use of the arts would deepen understanding of subjects across the curriculum, "encouraging creative thinking, improving motivation and increasing attainment and achievement for all".

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