The end of the story?
12.06.12 | Paul Munden
A rich tradition is under threat. Creative people have long gone into schools to speak to and work with children, but now a new breed of administrator is at the helm, and whereas writers and artists themselves used to have a real say in what happens, it's now the Arts Council in charge.
The latest madness is a proposed Level 3 Qualification for artists working with children and young people. The explicit subtext is the 'licence to practice' (and yes, that's their spelling).
If the qualification were to be mandatory, we would have an appallingly divisive arrangement whereby the writers at the top of their profession would cease offering their services. At the same time, the field would then be dominated by those styling themselves as writers-in-schools, which is not the same thing as published authors working in schools as part of their professional portfolio. The rot set in when the term 'creative practitioner' was introduced.
But the plan has even more fundamental faults, negating the principles of good practice established by professional artists and their support organisations over the past decades. Nowhere does the proposal place any importance on the crucial relationship between artist and teacher. Instead, it puts forward the model of artists taking responsibility for the many things that teachers themselves need to address while engaging those artists. It goes against the grain of all essential guidance, not to mention the rich range of CPD [Continuing Professional Development] already on offer to artists committed to developing their work with young people in diverse and meaningful ways.
Teachers are keen to know what special value artists will bring to their classrooms. They are also quick to quibble when the work that goes on is something that they feel they could have done themselves. The proposed qualification fails to address the first point, while falling wholesale into the trap of the second.
It is tempting to treat the proposal as somewhat laughable, and assume it will get nowhere, but that's far too dangerous an attitude in this climate. Writers and artists need to retake control before it is too late. NAWE, in collaboration with the other national membership associations (representing over 25,000 artists in total), has made an initial response, which we have published on our website www.nawe.co.uk/news.html. Already, writers are making their individual voices heard in response, and we urge many more to do the same.