Education policies have led to an apparent downgrading of the arts in the curriculum over recent years due to governmental ‘preoccupation with core subjects’ (Hennessy, Rolfe and Chedzoy 2001: 54). The emergence of Expressive Arts as one of six areas of learning and experience (AoLE) in Wales’ new curriculum – areas that are of ‘of equal importance in a broad and balanced curriculum’ (Donaldson 2015: 43) – would appear to demonstrate greater valorisation of the arts as taught in schools.
This paper draws from a study exploring the views and experiences of teachers who have been tasked with providing the framework for the new curriculum for Expressive Arts. These ‘Pioneer’ teachers have been selected from both primary and secondary phases, as well as special schools. The study compares the perspectives of Pioneer teachers from both phases, focusing on their contexts, aspirations, experiences as Pioneer teachers and their pedagogical approaches.
A case study approach was adopted, and qualitative methods were used to gather data. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a sample of the Expressive Arts AoLE Pioneer group, and observations were made of the Pioneers at work in their regular AoLE meetings. The study found that intrinsic differences between the contexts of both phases made collaborative work challenging. Pedagogical approaches already used in primary schools were a challenge to secondary schools, particularly in terms of staffing and timetabling. However, their joint commitment to enhancing children’s and young people’s engagement with the expressive arts in education elicited a productive ‘glue’ that brought about a shared purpose. The study reveals that Welsh Government’s considerable investment in the Pioneer process enabled primary and secondary colleagues to embark on a process that may lead to greater coherence and understanding across the phases. A question remains as to whether this can be replicated in the wider school population.
Donaldson, G. (2015) Successful futures: Independent review of curriculum and assessment arrangements in Wales. Cardiff: Welsh Government.
Hennessy, S., Rolfe, L. and Chedzoy, S. (2001) ‘The factors which influence student teachers’ confidence to teach the arts in the primary classroom’. Research in Dance Education, 2:1, 53-71.