Dance is a vital part of a child’s education, but has always had an uncertain place in the national curriculum.
Every Child Matters, published by the government in 2004 outlined 5 goals that children and young people should be able to achieve – being healthy, staying safe, enjoying and achieving, making a positive contribution, and achieving economic well being. As the school day forms a large part of a young person’s life, it follows that the education system is more than partly responsible for helping to deliver these objectives.
It is my opinion, that dance in education can help to achieve all of these, and I discuss exactly how that can happen, in this paper.
Being healthy – Dance is a physical activity, and one that can offer various physical skills that cannot be acquired in other areas of physical education. Dance is currently considered as part of PE in the national curriculum, meaning that it is sometimes taught by people who are not trained in the subject. This can lead to improper dance training, and lowers the quality of the subject.
Staying safe – Dance can give young people hands on experience and practical health and safety skills, such as in the safe execution of parkour. It also offers opportunities to young people at risk.
Enjoying and achieving – Kinesthetic learners are currently not catered for in the secondary national curriculum. Multi-disciplinary teaching, e.g. teaching mathematics through dance, can help these students to achieve their full potential. Many young people gain their first, and sometimes only, access to the arts through education. Removing the arts from the curriculum runs the risk of some young people never experiencing the cultural life of our country. The arts also provide young people with skills that are both applicable and vital to various industries.
Making a positive contribution – In the past, dance has been a vehicle for young people to take part in once in a lifetime opportunities, such as being involved in The Cultural Olympiad of 2012.
Achieving economic wellbeing – Over 170, 000 people work in the arts in the UK, which proves that it is a misconception that you cannot earn a living from working in this industry. In addition to this, studying arts subjects offer a flexibility of career pathways, as the skills that can be gained are transferrable to many other areas of work.
Considering the above points in relation to the Every Child Matters paper of 2004, it follows that dance should be in the national curriculum. In addition to this, anthropological research states evidence that in many cultures, dance is actually considered as part of being human. This begs that question, that if dance is so vital to our status as human beings, why is it considered to be not needed in our education system?
It seems that there are inconsistencies in what the government are saying about the needs and aspirations of children and young people today, and what the national curriculum actually provides them with. This is an ongoing debate, and one that has a history going back to the 1950s. I propose that the Arts Industry needs to be offering solutions to this problem, as it appears that the government are not going to quickly change their opinion on the issue.
Possible ways of working towards a change of the status of dance include the prestige that can be gained from school groups participating in youth dance platforms across the country. Another idea is to find loopholes in the curriculum, to allow for multi-disciplinary teaching up to and including secondary age students, as well as offering Continued Professional Development opportunities in this vain.
These matters are discussed in more detail in my paper Every Child Matters… Still, where various supporting examples are also offered. I would like to invite you to read that paper, and welcome any feedback you may be able to give.
Gemma Connell, Youth and Education Coordinator
Pavilion Dance South West