Today on Imagination Matters, we’re sharing an article from Gareth Binns, Chief Executive of the Institute of Imagination, in response to The Arts for Every Child, the latest briefing paper from the Cultural Learning Alliance. It argues that arts education is not only essential to young people’s development as individuals, but the future of a well-rounded society.

In October, the Cultural Learning Alliance (CLA) published a new Briefing Paper, ‘The Arts for Every Child: why arts education is a social justice issue’.

It’s the fifth in a series of bold briefing papers produced in association with a range of leading organisations which champion the theme in question – in this case Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Previous editions have covered the arts and its positive impact on wellbeing and health in partnership with Place2Be; and participation in the arts to improve employability and enterprise with the The Edge Foundation.

The briefings are evidence-led and provide concise arguments for the importance and impact of arts and culture on a range of society’s most pressing issues. ‘The Arts for Every Child’ strongly argues for the need for us all to take seriously the position that universal access to an arts education is a social justice issue.

We are pleased to see that imagination is recognised as key skill that arts education sustains and develops in the introduction to the briefing:

Whether we are talking about one day having jobs in the creative industries, what it takes to build sustainable communities, or about their future personal wellbeing, the arts give children skills for life. Creativity, imagination, an appreciation of form and narrative, and the ability to express emotion and complexity help them deal with tough circumstances, and to see and navigate new horizons; they are an important part of what prepares them for the world beyond school; and for some, they are a vital refuge from challenges we can only imagine.

Moira Sinclair
Chief Executive, Paul Hamlyn Foundation

At the Institute of Imagination we strongly advocate for the inclusion of arts within interdisciplinary approaches to learning, and since 2011 have often cited the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and maths) approach to creating learning environments as a bedrock for our programmes. The ‘A’ of Arts is the essential glue between the elements, allowing educators and students to bridge the perceived gap between imagination and learning. Combining tangible and seemingly intangible skills to solve problems broadens the appeal and understanding – not only of STEM subjects, but learning as skill in itself – by removing the barriers between subjects.

Our Chair, Ric Lewis, is quoted in the briefing: “Taking part in the arts provides an effective bridge to higher aspirations and achievement for kids.And indeed they are a bridge: a bridge between subjects, between people, across the skills gap, and a pathway to improved wellbeing and flourishing. 

I would recommend all the CLA briefing papers as highly relevant and timely reads for all those engaged with culture, creativity and young people.

Read the full briefing from the CLA.

Posted by:Gareth Binns, Chief Executive, Institute of Imagination

Gareth Binns is Chief Executive of Institute of Imagination, the charity that runs the Imagination Matters campaign. A Fellow of the RSA, he was formerly Head of Education and Interpretation at the National Trust, Director of Learning at Nesta, Keeper of Learning and Information at the British Museum, and CEO of the Sorrell Foundation. As well as other trustee roles, Gareth is a governor at an academy for 11-18 year olds.

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