Keith Harris: Play Will Pay...

09 Apr 2014

I woke up this morning on 3 April and found myself having to check again that it wasn’t still April Fools’ Day.  The reason for my confusion was hearing the chief inspector of schools stating that children of the age of two have not been adequately prepared for school because they haven’t been taught how to hold a pen by the time that they start Primary School at the age of 4 – not even a crayon you notice, but a pen!

Apart from my concern about the idea of having to prepare children from the age of 2 to enter school, I was also struck by the fact that the chief inspector saw nothing strange about the idea of teaching children of that age to use a pen.  It seems to me indicative of the fact that preparing children for the modern world seems to take no account of the role or the value of the creative industries in terms of the future of our country.  The UK Music survey last year,  showing that the value of the creative industries to the UK economy was £3.5 billion a year, should at the very least register and hopefully make people more wary about building a society on the basis of automatic regimentation of children into traditional jobs.  Whilst not being a child development expert I strongly suspect that those early years of play and scribble are the building blocks for future creative ability.

Whilst not belittling the importance of maths and science and traditional business skills, I am very alarmed by the idea that from the age of two the general thrust of education is being forced along very narrow rails.  When looking at comparative education there seems to be a tendency to look East, and to compare our educational levels with those of China or Japan.  When making these comparisons, there is inevitably an emphasis on looking at the maths ability of their children vis-a-vis ours.  I have never seen a comparison based on the creative abilities of our children when measured against theirs, yet it seems to me that it is our very creativity which is destined to be the bedrock of the country’s future especially if we are to compete against these eastern powers with huge stocks of human capital for traditional manufacturing industries.

It has been well recognised that on the music front, the UK, along with the United States and Sweden, has been one of the few net exporters.  It is also interesting that in a country like Sweden, children don’t start school until the age of seven.  Could there perhaps be a link between this late starting age for compulsory schooling, and the disproportionate musical creativity?  Perhaps this latter point is carrying my theory too far, however I have not been aware that the Swedes have suffered enormously from letting children play longer before starting formal schooling.

I am here harking back to one of my blogs about the importance of not purely creating ‘round pegs for round holes’.  It is very hard to assess our long term needs, in terms of having a work force that is equipped to deal with the challenges of the future, however there is no doubt in my mind that creativity will be central to those challenges, and that allowing children the time to play in a relatively unstructured way will be central to allowing them to have the creative thoughts and develop the creative abilities that will serve us best.

Keith Harris – Keith Harris – Keith Harris Music Ltd / MusicTank Chair / Director of Performer Affairs, PPL

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