We'll give every child exposure to arts and culture in school - Taoiseach
Varadkar confirms a music tuition programme for children will be extended nationwide over the next five years, writes Alan O'Keeffe
A plan to enable each Irish child to develop their creative potential was launched by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday.
Creativity will be a vital key to devising solutions to the challenges, as yet unknown, that will face Ireland many years from now, Mr Varadkar said.
The Creative Youth plan seeks to give every child and young person in Ireland practical access to tuition, experience and participation in music, drama, art and computer coding within the next five years.
The Taoiseach was joined by three government ministers at the plan's national launch at St Laurence O'Toole's Girls National School in Seville Place in Dublin's north inner city.
Mr Varadkar used straight-forward words to explain to 20 girls in first and second class the value of art and creativity to society.
"We don't really know what the jobs of the future are going to look like. Or what the future is going to look like," said the Taoiseach.
"But we do know that it's going to be really different. We think the best way to prepare you for the future is to help you to be creative because we know that it is creative people that always invent things.
"Even when it's not about jobs, it gives us a much better life if we're exposed to the arts and music and dance and all those days.
"So what today is really about is a plan that we're putting forward to make sure that every child in the country has an exposure to arts and culture in school and that we really build on that," he said.
The five-year Creative Youth plan is part of the Creative Ireland Programme. The plan will build on existing activities in schools and develop new projects and initiatives.
One of the initiatives in the first stage of the plan is the very successful Music Generation programme, which currently reaches more than 40,000 children in developing their musical expression and skills.
The plan will be extended nationwide over the next five years, said the Taoiseach.
"We know that children who get involved in the arts and cultural activities are happier, suffer less anxiety and do better in school," he said.
"We want to encourage young people to be creative thinkers, to expand their minds and to ensure that have the chance to fully explore the joys of creative and cultural endeavour, whether that's learning to code, dance or sing.
"This won't just help them to prepare for the future, it will also add to their sense of wellbeing.
"Creative Youth has the potential to have a lasting and positive impact on this generation of young people, as it opens them up to a world of culture and creativity," he said.
The Creative Youth plan, which is part of the ambitious Creative Ireland initiative will also involve:
l bringing artists into classrooms on a pilot basis;
l clustering schools to generate shared artistic events;
l developing creative programmes for young people in disadvantaged communities around the country;
l continuing professional development projects for teachers;
l increased opportunities for pupils to learn computer coding and computational thinking;
l expanding drama and theatre participation for pupils outside school;
l developing and extending choral singing;
l an annual national creativity day 'Crinniú' for children and young people in consultation with local councils;
l establishing local creative youth partnerships on a pilot basis;
l implementation of additional elements of the Arts In Education Charter will be supported.
Also speaking at the event yesterday were Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan, Education Minister Richard Bruton, and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe.
Ms Madigan said 2018 will be a year of pilot programmes for the new initiatives.
"We will work across the various Government departments and agencies to make sure that what we are doing has the greatest possible impact on the wellbeing of our children and young," she said.
"Creative Youth represents the beginning - not the end - of this process," she said.
Education Minister Bruton said: "Ensuring our children are creative, flexible thinkers is key to delivering on this ambition … The plan puts a strong focus on developing such skills by setting out a plan for every child in Ireland to have practical access to music, drama and art and coding by 2022."
He said the plan aligns well with the new primary maths curriculum which includes elements of coding and computational thinking.
His department was funding the nationwide rollout of the Music Generation programme.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said: "I'm a firm believer that engagement with the arts and creativity can help young people to develop self-confidence and identity, show them that they can be creative and imaginative and that their expression is valued by society."
A recent report showed that children participating in artistic and cultural activities coped better with schoolwork, have more positive attitudes to continued schooling, and were happier overall, he said.
Such participation leads to them having "reduced anxiety, better academic skills and fewer socio-emotional difficulties," he said.
"Creative Youth can successfully build on this by placing arts, culture and creativity at the very centre of education and development for all of our children and young people," he said.