As a subject, art is unique: it teaches skills, drives creativity and develops cultural appreciation. Crucially, in a 24/7 world, it offers life-enhancing moments of calm and mindfulness.
As teachers, we must be allowed to invest our time, energy and resources in building positive relationships with our students, to focus on what’s important so that our young people become well-balanced, well-educated and valuable members of society.
However, the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and the current educational agenda are working against this, draining teachers’ energies by forcing them to do battle daily with far less important tasks.
I see a lack of equity in education today. For example, the blatant promotion of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) subjects above all else, to the detriment of others, should be a serious concern for those with an interest in developing a balanced society.
Scotland has historically been a world leader not only in Stem, but also across the broad spectrum of the arts. In the classroom today, teachers of subjects such as mine are being underfunded and short-changed.
Perhaps it’s the fault of local or national government for failing to ensure that teachers are prepared for new courses with training and well-developed course materials, which would enable us to teach in unfamiliar territory.
The lack of a level playing field for teachers has had an impact, with little consistency in the time allocation offered: the “nominal” 160 hours for National 5, for example, is loose and unlegislated. The timescale set for National 4-5 courses in our schools was one year, while other schools spread the workload over two years.
But when results are ultimately compared without any cognisance of these uneven factors, where is the equity?
Similarly, when one set of battered and broken computers is shared between six staff members and four subject areas, what does that do for staff and pupil perception of a subject’s worth? What impact does it have on the teacher’s ability to effectively communicate a subject’s relevance to the 21st century?
Should teachers such as myself finance my own materials and equipment to ensure that children have an acceptable standard of educational experience? Do I really need to argue repeatedly to secure the non-contact time I require to prepare my lessons without a technician, or to support my probationer?
CfE might sound impressive, but without adequate funding, support and resources for all subjects, teachers cannot possibly work to the best of their abilities – whatever the ambitions of the curriculum.
Veronica Jane Lynch is a former art and design teacher who left the profession to run a jewellery and stained-glass business