Somerset Primary Art and Design Conference

Somerset Primary Art Conference Plenary Transcript, Courtesy of Lesley Butterworth, General Secretary of NSEAD

At the closure of a collaborative, outstanding, inspiring day I have really valued listening to presentations and conversations and I have learned a great deal, thank you.

I’d like first to acknowledge absent friends. In my role as General Secretary of NSEAD I am privileged to be invited to and to attend similar conferences across the UK, and have been for many years. It is sad to see diminishing numbers at these gatherings, not in any way due to lack of enthusiasm or fantastic programmes, but to barriers due to the unintended consequences of government policy on our subject, and funding constraints.

So I really appreciate a high turnout today, and well done to everyone who managed to seek positive permissions from Heads and Senior Managers. But let’s just spare a moment to think of those many primary teachers who were unable to attend today, and think how we can reach out to them in other ways. I am sure they are here in spirit, because this is perfect CPD.

To put my concern about CPD into context, the NSEAD Survey Report 2015-16 asked over 1,000 teachers across all phases how current government policy is affecting our subject, and subject specific CPD was a hot topic.

We found that 55% of primary subject coordinators rarely or never attended subject specific CPD, and 50% self-fund to attend subject specific CPD in their own time. Is this national disgrace I wonder? 67% of teachers would like to attend the courses offered by the museum and gallery sector, only 25% actually access these courses.

So this is the challenging landscape we are operating in.

A great day only works if there is a great deal of effort behind the scenes in making it work. Thought and energy has been put into today in spades, I’d like to thank SPAEDA, InspirED and our hosts at Hestercombe House for all the work they have done, and of course thank you to all the presenters and workshop facilitators.

I’d like to pick up on some threads running through the day.

Many of you will be aware of Switched Onto Art, not a one off but a careful and developmental step to inform how SPAEDA best delivers CPD in the future. The core of Switched Onto Art was Switch book, a collaborative sketchbook project involving teachers, cultural leaders and young people. I encourage you to continue to engage in all these fantastic and innovative programmes.

The identity and value of Hestercombe House is of high importance to the education and cultural communities of Somerset. Again, returning to the NSEAD Survey Report 2015-16 I am aware of how vital cultural spaces are, as a professional place where our subject proves its point to the outside world. Yet, access for teachers to these spaces cannot be taken for granted. When asked if their schools supported the principle that children and young people should work with creative practitioners and access orgigional works of art, craft and design, 82% of teachers from the independent school sector confirmed their school supported this with only 36% of teachers from the state sector confirming the same.

The third thread is the concept of a broad and balanced curriculum. I feel a little responsible, or irresponsible for this, NSEAD is always consulted during any curriculum review and we were consulted on the current curriculum for art and design, as it stands now. Our recommendations were in part listened to, but not enough, so we wrote our own, cunningly popping up under the official DfE version.

We cannot underestimate, nor take for granted space for and the value of a broad and balanced curriculum for our children and young people. A glimmer of hope is that now Ofsted are consulting to better understand what a broad and balanced curriculum actually means and looks like.

A fourth thread is making, and working in 3D. And this brings me to the inclusion of opportunities for young men to engage in our subject. Every August we scrutinise the GCSE results, which give us a health check for our subject. We have noted that fewer and fewer young men are taking up our subject at KS3, and if we are the subject that excels in inclusion and diversity then this is of concern. Making and 3D are positive strategies to ensure our subject engages young men in the depth and breadth of our subject across all phases.

And while I’m thinking about making I’m keen to shout about craft, explicit in our subject despite not having a place in our subject title. Think of the old fashioned values of craft, make, do and mend, thrift, measure twice and cut once. And bring them into the 21st century where, translated into recycle, upcycle and ecologically and ethically sound material and business practices. Craft is ‘a good idea whose time has come’ and we need to celebrate its place in our subject.

It’s been an amazing day. What can I give you back? In my work there is a tension between pointing to the ‘unintended’ consequences of government policy on art and design and its teachers, and shining a light on good practice and where all is thriving.

We meet termly at the Houses of Parliament where, through our All Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Craft and Design in Education we seek to influence parliamentarians about the issues impacting on our subject. Parliamentarian’s want stories to hook their debate upon, and I can assure you the positive stories of Somerset will be heard at Westminster and by NSEAD members across the UK.

Thank you

Lesley Butterworth

General Secretary


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