Is This The Death of Creative Education?

Something that you may or may not know about me is that I have recently taken on the role of school governor, well, we are actually called Directors at this school.  It was a decision I made because of the wonderful work they had done with my son who has autism, because my daughter was joining Year 7, I had a little spare time and I thought it would be nice to give something back.  I only attended my first board meeting in December but so far I am enjoying the role.  I have been asked to have responsibility for Food Technology and Textiles, two subjects I would like to think I know a thing or two about!

Yesterday I went into school to meet with the Director of Learning for the Technology Department, or in other words, the Head of Department.   The meeting didn’t get off to the best of starts considering they couldn’t find the lady for half an hour and then she left me waiting a further 20 minutes!  Eventually she collected me and we had a tour around the technology department.  Some very large Year 11 children were busy at work, both in the kitchens cooking for a GCSE assessment, and also in the workshops where there was lots of cutting, hammering and welding going on.  But the textiles rooms?  Deserted.  The walls were half bare too.  I was shocked and saddened to hear that not one single child had chosen textiles as one of their options.

Apparently one of the reasons for this could be that the project they complete in Year 9 before they choose their GCSEs is not exactly enthusing the children.  They make a bag in Year 7, a cushion cover in Year 8 but in Year 9 they make a fabric postcard which even the staff admit isn’t very interesting.  Why can’t we offer them something like a simple quilting project which can be VERY addictive?  So I decided to look into this further.

Simply by doing a Google search I found a few articles and papers written about the decline in creative subjects within schools.  Primary children get very little chance to make things, as evidenced by a lesson I taught as a supply teacher recently where not one Year 4 child in a class of 29 knew what to do when I gave them a needle and thread!

One of the best articles I read on this was by the Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/feb/11/design-craft-subjects-decline-in-schools  in which it is clear that Educational policy is one of the reasons for the decline.  A few years ago the EBac was introduced which placed a greater emphasis on ‘academic’ subjects rather than those that are more artistic and creative.  GCSEs have recently gone through change from being all about getting ‘5GCSEs at A* – C including English and Maths’ to a ‘Best 8’ system which turns grades into numbers and gives a student an average points score similar to the American system.

It works like putting all subjects into three boxes.  My Year 9 son will have to study English Literature and Language and Maths which will go into the first box and be double weighted in this new points system.  He will have other compulsory lessons such as PE but will end up with room on his timetable for just three options.  One of these MUST be from science, computing, history, geography or a language – basically traditional EBac subjects and they will go in the second box. The final two choices will be from any of the subjects the school offers, but if a child chooses two creative subjects they could possibly end up in a situation where only one will count towards the final points, leaving the other as a zero score and the child with a potential deficit in their overall points.  This will put them at a disadvantage compared to a child who choses more academic subjects and thereby gains a higher points average.  And of course all this has an impact on the school league tables too which has led to some schools leaving children with only one choice of subject at GCSE in order to maximise the potential for points.

All of this seems to be in a complete juxtaposition of what is happening if you look at community courses, or adult education.  There has been a significant growth in the number of adults enrolling for evening classes in creative areas.  People are choosing to spend their free time and hard earned money on anything from knitting to flower arranging.  This could lead to craft based skills only being available to those people who can afford to learn them.  How will that impact on already disadvantaged families?

Something that also came up in my reading is the growing evidence of increased childhood depression.  More and more young adults are needing help with their mental health, they are suffering from stress placed on them to achieve in their exams.  Suicide rates continue to increase and there seems to be a new story in the news every week about the lack of funding in the NHS for mental health, especially for young adults.  There has been studies into this and it has been proven that increased creativity can reduce depression, stress and anxiety.  Are we doing our children a huge injustice by taking away their creative outlets and replacing them with yet more academia and stress?

We also need to consider the long term life choices that could be affected by what the children can study at school.  When I was taking my GCSEs our school didn’t have a textiles teacher, and so it wasn’t offered as an option.  Something which has always bothered me as I am pretty sure that my career choices would have been very different if I had been able to work with materials from a much younger age.  So can you imagine my horror this morning when I discovered that the school I am now a Director of, with a responsibility that includes textiles, is not offering it as an option to the current Year 9 children for one of their Year 10 subjects!

I would love to hear your views on this, do you have any ideas or comments?  Do you have children in this position?  Would they like to do more creative things in school?

I feel like I need to do something about this.  It may already be too late for those children going into Year 10 in September, but what about future generations?  And one last thing to ponder, I did hear a rumour that the government is now trying to make PE lessons less practical too – where will this all stop?

Quilting Fever

Earlier in the year for my birthday present my husband paid for a quilting course for me.  It was for two and half hours per week for six weeks at Leven Crafts.  There were 6 of us starting the course on that Monday morning in March and we couldn’t wait to get going!

Charlotte, Tessa and me on our first morning.  We were going to be making the quilt on the right.

Charlotte, Tessa and me on our first morning. We were going to be making the quilt on the right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We started out being shown how to accurately measure and cut the pieces of material we would need.  I am a knitter and crocheter at heart and am used to being able to start again if I make a mistake without having ruined my materials.  Cutting was a whole new ball game and I developed a bit of a phobia about it.  I was incredibly slow and nervous every time I had to pick up the rotary cutter.

Essential kit is a good quality rotary cutter and the biggest ruler and cutting board you can afford.

Essential kit is a good quality rotary cutter and the biggest ruler and cutting board you can afford.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are going to be taking up quilting there are three bits of essential kit you will need to invest in.  A self-healing mat, a ruler and a rotary cutter.  The mat and cutter should be the biggest that you can afford.  The first ruler I bought was far too small so I had to keep folding my material making it harder and less accurate to cut.  In the end I bought a bigger one but they are very expensive and it is best to get this right first time.  The same with the mat, as you don’t want to keep having to move your material up – it may lead to mistakes.  The rotary cutter I have requires you to press in a button on the handle to bring the blade out.  This is a brilliant safety tool as it means when you place it back down the blade will go back away.  They are so sharp you really don’t want to be having any accidents with them.

Two 9 patch with 2 plain squares make a block.

Two 9 patch with 2 plain squares make a block.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first block we constructed was a called a 9 patch as it consisted of 9 small squares.  Two of these placed together with two large plain squares and we had our first block!  The quilt used four of these blocks with the 9 patch pattern all pointing towards the centre of the quilt.  The middle two blocks were windmill style and look really effective.

One of the middle blocks.

One of the middle blocks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once we had all the blocks it was time to put them together to construct the front of the quilt.  The best tip I picked up on the course was ‘snuggling’.  When pinning ready to sew blocks together it is important to make sure the joins are lined up correctly or it will not look good when you open it back out.  Looking at the block above the top two square were sewn together and the bottom two were.  When putting them together in a complete block you had to ensure that the corners of the pink squares lined up exactly.  You achieve this by pushing the joins together as if they were snuggling up.  The edges lining up is not important as you can trim the size of the complete block at the end.  The joins MUST be accurate.

All of the blocks were joined together by placing sashing in-between them.  I chose a bright pink for mine.  It was going to be given to my daughter and the colour would match her bedroom perfectly.

Adding the sashing between blocks.

Adding the sashing between blocks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once we had the wadding and backing materials cut to the correct size it was time to put them together.  There are various ways of holding the layers together whilst you quilt.  You can pin or baste.  Both methods are a little time consuming and will require removal at the end.  We used an adhesive spray instead.  It was called 505 and you spray it onto the wadding because although it is safe to use with your material it may stain if sprayed on directly.

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All three layers together ready for binding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found the quilting very hard work on my arms.  There was just so much material to try and manoeuvre through the sewing machine.

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The back of the quilt shows the quilting pattern.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once it was all quilted together the final stage and the final week had finally arrived.  I seemed to be much slower than the other people on the course and after every session I always left with homework to complete so I could start the next session at the same point as everyone else.  We all arrived with our almost finished quilts and it was fabulous to see how far we had all come.  And of course despite the fact that we were all following the same basic pattern our quilts were amazingly different.

Ruth showed us how to make a long strip of material the same colour as our sashing and then machine sew it onto the front of the quilts.  I must say this was the part of making my quilt that I liked the least.  I don’t know why because I had to be just as accurate when I was quilting the layers together.  I found mitring the corners a little tricky but I was able to get the binding sewn all the way round on the front just a little late for the end of the final session.

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The finished quilt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once again I was sent home with some homework, but so did everyone else.  We were to sew an invisible hem by hand all the way around the quilt to attach the binding to the back.  It took me a whole afternoon and evening in front of the TV to complete this task but it was worth it in the end.

The quilt looked beautiful.

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The binding looked good and was worth the effort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And as it was going to be for my daughter I decided to add a tag documenting when it was made and who by.  Now it can be an heirloom piece!

The tag I added.

The tag I added.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The quilt matches perfectly and was an instant hit!

The quilt matches perfectly and was an instant hit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My next quilt is going to be for my son.  He picked out the material himself and it is red with skull themed!

Leven Crafts is based in Guisborough and offer a range of quilting courses.  The one I did was the 6 week beginners course.  They also offer day workshops and sessions where you can bring your own projects and they are on hand to help you if you need them.