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From Gormley to Google: the case for public art in schools

Date uploaded: February 26, 2014

Artist Simon Hitchens writes for the Guardian Professional and explores how works of public art, can help broaden the knowledge of young people and help them develop their emotional and cultural literacy and make sense of the world around them.

In his article he states;"I want to make a case for more public art in schools and colleges.

I recently created a sculpture for The Leys school in Cambridge. The piece is called Transition Point and is formed of two boulder-like standing stones placed in opposition to each other, one faced in mirror-polished stainless steel, the other in highly-polished black granite. The sculpture is inspired by the scientific concept of states of change – a moment in time when an entity changes from one state to another. But it's also inspired by its school location and symbolises the transition pupils undergo as they pass through their education in the school.

The process of creating and installing the sculpture has led me to think closely about the school environment for students around the country, and the importance of art as part of the education setting.

In our current educational climate, the arts are not often considered to be of prime importance by the government and by some educational institutions. They are – if you like – "extras", to be added in after the "real" subjects have been attended to. This notion of the arts as a somehow lesser subject is not a new one. However, it is particularly prevalent in the here and now. Schools and colleges are judged and held to account by their performances in what are perceived as the important subjects.

The arts are regarded as "soft" subjects by the educational establishment because they do not lend themselves to objective measurement or standardised tests. That which cannot be measured is viewed with suspicion. Because of government imperatives, schools and colleges focus on more easily measured targets of numeracy and literacy.

But what of emotional and cultural literacy? Our cultures are, after all, defined by our artefacts. We make art to help people make sense of the world. Art asks more questions than it seeks to answer and, more importantly, it deals with opinion rather than fact. One of its roles is to encourage questioning and debate – it challenges, celebrates, commiserates and comments; it feeds our hunger to understand our lives and our world."

For the full article please click here.

Photograph: Stan Green/Alamy

Photograph: Stan Green/Alamy