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Education experts at Leeds Beckett University are collaborating with artists and organisations across Europe to develop teachers’ skills in incorporating creative arts in their school activities.

The researchers will work with artist educators - artists who teach a range of creative disciplines, from writing to acting, dancing, music and visual arts – to bring their skills into the classroom, ensuring that children of all backgrounds have the opportunity to engage in creative learning.

Working with the artists in schools across five countries in Europe, the team will share knowledge and skills with teachers of young people (aged between five and 16) – who teach a variety of subjects - and produce new research into the mental health benefits of creative learning with young people.

The project is being led by Dr Tom Dobson, Course Director, and Lisa Stephenson, Course Leader for the MA in Drama and Creative Writing in Education, both in the Carnegie School of Education at Leeds Beckett. The team will work with five partner institutions across the UK, Greece, Austria, Iceland and Italy.

Dr Dobson explained: “Whilst the importance of young people’s creative thinking skills is recognised, it is also widely acknowledged that the creative arts have been marginalised within European school curricula. Young people from higher social economic groups are making up for this through extra-curricular activities - but those from areas of disadvantage often miss out.

“At the same time, recent research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) points to a rise in mental health issues experienced by young people across Europe - with 29% of 15-year-old girls and 13% of 15-year-old boys feeling low more than once a week.

“Our team’s own research also shows a clear link between young people engaging in the creative arts and experiencing enhanced wellbeing through engaging more authentically in their learning.”

Through the project, the team will create a series of resources to enhance creative learning in schools across Europe – including toolkits for teachers, a guide for parents, and an interactive game for trainee teachers.

Dr Dobson added: “By developing the skills of teachers as teacher-artist educators, we aim provide hundreds of children across Europe with creative learning opportunities which will improve their wellbeing.”

The three-year project will start in November 2020 and has received €446,000 of funding from Erasmus+. The project will begin with focus groups taking place within each of the five countries between artist educators, teachers, school leaders, teacher trainers, parents and education policy makers – to understand how Artist Educators currently work in schools.

The team of artist educators will then work with teachers and young people in schools across the countries to begin developing the bank of resources.

Lisa Stephenson and Dr Tom Dobson

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