Open Letter to QLD Art Teachers from Les Hooper, QATA President.

Open Letter to QLD Art Teachers from Les Hooper, QATA President.


QATA would like to encourage visual arts educators to read and respond to ACARA’s Arts Shaping Paper:

Click here to view the ACARA Arts Shaping Paper

Feedback on aspects of the paper must be submitted by December 17.

At this point QATA has not developed a collective response and we don’t think it’s necessarily our role to do so. Nevertheless it’s incumbent that all visual arts educators read and understand the implications of the document, which has divided opinion in the arts education community throughout Australia.

The shaping paper will become the guide for the development of arts curriculum into the future and have a major impact on our professional roles, so its principles and language must be critically reviewed.

At present, opposition from visual arts colleagues in the south centres on a number of perceptions about the paper:

+ Loss of space in the curriculum for the visual arts (5 equal strands as opposed to Visual and Performing Arts)

+ Loss of specialist teacher expertise in the junior school

+ Potential for “Integration” of arts learning in the junior school

+ Devaluation of the highly developed individual and distinct arts disciplines

+ Lack of clear framework for year 9 + 10 and the senior arts curriculum.

There are other points of contention including the new language coined for the document and reflected in the organising strands, (generating, realizing, responding) and around many other issues still being played out in the media.

The Arts Alliance forum on the Shaping Paper at QUT on October 16 aired many of these objections and provided alternative interpretations of the paper. A number of panelists led by Professor John O’Toole, its principal author, spoke both generally and from the perspective of a range of the arts strands, explaining and endorsing the future directions charted in the paper. If you missed this forum, or would like to know more, you can watch it an its entirety via youtube below.

Some considerations for us:

As Queensland Visual Art educators, we don’t necessarily share the same curriculum (and political) landscape of colleagues in other states. Different subjects and interpretations of arts curriculum operate here. We are probably already closer to the model proposed by the shaping paper than elsewhere.

We have seen solidarity among the arts professional associations through the Arts Alliance as a very positive value. The Arts Alliance, brainchild of QATA past president Deb Cohen, has helped generate greater emphasis on arts education overall, given us a unified voice in advocacy and promoted dialogue across the strands.

In an ideal world, as part of the broader arts education community involving all the strands, we would be talking about the shaping paper as a positive for the arts in education: more emphasis, mandated attention and time in the K-8 curriculum, a strong focus on indigenous understandings and on Asia-Pacific cultures etc., however the reality is that there are some genuine and heart felt subject specific issues and values to be worked through, as well as some reservations about the way the paper might be interpreted by bureaucrats and administrators who don’t share our conviction of the value the arts in education.

It’s probable that at some point the arts strands will need to reconcile their differences and give ground on some of the detail (without surrendering their distinct identities) to arrive at the best possible model for arts curriculum.

All in all, our suggestion is that everyone reads the document carefully and thinks through the likely implications for their school, and for schooling more generally before providing feedback by the due date. Any feedback you may want to provide to QATA can be posted on our web so that we get a sense of the issues that affect you.

Finally on a personal note, I feel any new curriculum model for the arts should be providing an opportunity for us to lead in the wider debate about education rather than focus exclusively on the established arts silos. I’m sure the “core” disciplines, are more comfortable watching as we squabble over our allotted two hours per week than having us compete for time in the mainstream curriculum. “Design”, while it is folded into the language around the arts, is not given any distinctive shape or identity in the paper. This is perhaps an area of future growth where we arts educators could be leading rather than standing in the shadows.

On the other hand, it may be unreasonable to expect that this brief document will please everyone. Let’s all help to flesh it out.

ACARA’s Draft Shape of the Australian Curriculum: the Arts.
Read and respond by December 17.

Les Hooper