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Curriculum in Northern Ireland for Art and Design

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'The Northern Ireland Revised Curriculum for Art and Design provides teachers with a firm foundation for encouraging individuality and developing genuine creativity in the classroom.'

In order to respond thoroughly to this statement I feel that it is important to address the key words within the text, and what impact they have on a response to this account. Firstly the word revise refers to the new guidelines that are now in place within Northern Ireland education, and tells us that the previous curriculum has been amended and updated. It is therefore important to review the reasons for this change and discover what the limitations of the previous curriculum were. The revised curriculum is described here as giving a firm foundation; implying that a strong framework of guidelines are in place which should efficiently enable the teacher to easily carry out learning objectives. It is therefore important to decide whether or not this revised structure actually is helpful and efficient enough to provide Art and Design teachers with the ability to achieve the desired results of encouraging individuality and developing genuine creativity. The wording of these objectives states that there is a positive interaction being provided by the teacher in which the learner is given the encouragement to not only think for themselves, but be able to acquire over a period of time the ability to generate their own unique ideas and explore them further independently. It is these objectives that are the focus of the statement, and further to this essay I will also look at whether or not these two objectives are now more obtainable in the classroom due to the revised curriculum. I also feel it is important to reflect on the significance for a pupil to have the ability to be individual and creative, and whether or not these qualities can be achieved in a classroom environment. These issues will be discussed in order to provide an objective response to the above passage, and will be supported by information provided from related texts, as well as opinions provided by the Head of Art in my chosen placement school.

The Revised Curriculum has been carefully considered and planned, and wishes to improve upon the preceding education systems that have existed. Previous to this were guidelines devised in 1988 by Kenneth Baker. His system consisted of ten essential subjects, including Art and Design, with Maths, English, and Science deemed the 'core' subjects that would be central to a pupil's timetable. John White, an Emeritus Professor of Philosophy of Education, writes that when this National Curriculum was set up "it was all but aimless" (White 2004, Pg 1). He goes on to remark that there was no description of what these subjects were for, and that Baker "unreflectively took over a traditional view of what constitutes a good school education" (Pg 1). Schools before this National Curriculum could decide themselves what subjects to provide so Art and Design, as with every other subject, was determined by what the schools and teachers wanted to teach, but with no set guidelines. Emphasis was being put on the subject content rather than having specific aims for learning. By the 1990s however teachers did begin to question the purpose of this curriculum and White writes:

"The Labour Government and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) responded and devised an extensive set of aims... Although these aims were presented simply as a list, without any rationale, they are an interesting development. They place a good deal of emphasis on the pupil's personal well-being, practical reasoning and preparation for civic life."

(White 2004, Pg 3)

John White clearly projects a view that a curriculum needs to be more than just retaining information, but should have a clear set of objectives that will enable a person to function in society after they have left school. He feels that "the curriculum should have some bearing on the shape of our future society" (Pg 5) and that academic subject's will always have a place within school education, "but there is no good reason why they should be the only, or even the dominant vehicles" (Pg 4). The Revised Curriculum for Northern Ireland's objectives to a great extent follow John Whites desire that the education system really needs to progress on from the 1988 model, and give young people both knowledge and skills together that would help them not only during their time at school, but as they progress through their lives. An excerpt from the information published on the Revised Curriculum states:

"The revised Northern Ireland Curriculum aims to empower pupils to achieve their potential and to make informed and responsible choices and decisions throughout their lives as individuals, as contributors to society and as contributors to the economy and environment."

(CCEA. 2009. Pg 6)

Some insight into the need for revision to the Northern Ireland curriculum is highlighted in John Harland and Helen Moor's research into pupils' perceptions of their learning in Northern Ireland. The success of the revised curriculum depends largely on its implementation in schools and one of the main problems they found was that a pupils' education was greatly effected by what religion they were and whether they went to a High School or a Grammar school. Harland and Moor state that the school a pupil attends is affected by their religion and performance in the former Transfer Test (now removed), rather than what their specific ability, interests, and needs are. An important point was that they found there to be the lack of a common curriculum, as the report states:

"In reality, schools offered pupils a variety of NI curricula rather than a common NI curriculum entitlement. Overall, languages were prone to the greatest variation, but music, technology, RE, PE and art were each allocated widely varying amounts of time depending on the school."

(Harland and Moore 2001. Pg 3)

The report also says that Art is one of the subjects most likely to receive less than the recommended time allocated to it, and so the opportunity to promote creativity will be affected by time restraints. Unfortunately, according to the report Art is seen as being one of the least relevant subjects in the curriculum and is perceived as not having any 'lasting worth' (Pg. 11). Harland and

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