Over the last five years, the Australia Council and Sydney Opera House have partnered up in a schools program called Creative Leadership in Learning that aims to get young people actively involved in making and creating art. A report has now been released that follows its implementation in 16 schools and shows just how successful the program is in building esteem, skills and confidence.
The report looks at the experiences of eight primary and secondary schools in greater Sydney that participated in the program in 2017-2019. More than 2,000 students and nearly 500 teachers took part in activities across song, film, theatre and mural art. These were led by Opera House artists and centred on themes of environmental sustainability, belonging, identity and migration.
A distinctive feature about the Creative Leadership in Learning program is that it allows each school to set its own challenge. In one example, Liverpool Boys High, suspended its entire timetable for three weeks to mount a ‘Takeover’ in which visiting artists helped students ‘art bomb’ new ideas and “follow passion projects” of their choosing in a range of workshops, mentoring and performances. See a video of how it turned out here.
Many of the schools in the program were from socio-economic disadvantaged regions around Sydney.
The 85-page report, prepared jointly by the Australia Council and the Opera House, examines the program’s impact through interviews conducted with the artists, school staff, students and families. It found that students experienced increased engagement in all sorts of areas, with principals and teachers agreeing that applied creativity “has the potential to impact the whole child – academically, socially and emotionally”.
Federal Arts Minister Paul Fletcher said at the time of the report’s release, that it “offers valuable insights into the crucial role of arts and creativity in equipping our young people with the resilience and confidence they will need for the future”.
The Creative Leadership in Learning program was developed by education academics Miranda Jefferson and Michael Anderson at the University of Sydney.
Another useful outcome of the program is that it demonstrates how a major performance venue such as the Sydney Opera House, normally place of public arts consumption, can contribute actively to creative learning in the lives of young people. Unfortunately, the Opera House’s Amplified showcase festival for schools – part of the program – had to be cancelled this year due to COVID-19. Nevertheless, its artistic resources were utilised as planned.
Michael Anderson and Peter O’Connor have written about the Creative Leadership in Learning program and this aspect of venues as partners in learning in the book Education and Theatres.