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ARTS:LIVE launched as Arts Curriculum is approved

Paul Isbel

The ARTS:LIVE interactive online learning platform to support the Australian Curriculum: The Arts was launched on Friday June 14.
ARTS:LIVE launched as Arts Curriculum is approved

The ARTS:LIVE  interactive online learning platform to support the Australian Curriculum: The Arts was launched on Friday June 14 as the ACARA Board approved the national curriculum.

From today all Australian schools and students will have free access to ARTS:LIVE, the unique interactive online learning platform that promotes active collaboration between teachers and students across all five art forms in the Australian Curriculum: The Arts F-10. ARTS:LIVE was launched at the Art Gallery of NSW by the Minister for School Education, the Hon. Peter Garrett AM MP, and The Song Room, which was contracted by Education Services Australia (ESA) to be its sole partner for all Australian curriculum-aligned online arts resources.

In turn, The Song Room made its own partnerships with some of Australia’s leading arts organisations and arts education specialists to create high quality online arts resources that are classroom ready, regardless of the existing skills and knowledge of either teachers or students in any or all of the five art forms in the Arts Curriculum: dance, drama, media arts, music and visual arts.

The importance of this initiative cannot be overstated. The case has been made many times over that an arts curriculum has multiple benefits to learning and student wellbeing and engagement. The launch occurred at the same time the ACARA Board approved Australia’s first arts-dedicated curriculum to general enthusiastic acclaim. That support has been qualified with the question of who is going to deliver the curriculum, given that more than 70% of Australian school children have no access to specialised music programs, for instance, or that undergraduate generalist primary school teachers receive as little as two hours training in the arts across their entire education degree and usually no more than 20 hours. Naturally, with that level of training, few generalist teachers have the confidence to deliver specialist arts programs.

ARTS:LIVE goes a long way to creating that confidence, says The Song Room CEO Caroline Aebersold. ‘In the pilots that we’ve been running leading up to the launch, we’ve had really good feedback from teachers who did say that they didn’t feel confident in teaching the arts, but with this tool I feel that I am able to do that. They’ve given great feedback on what’s working and what’s needed to make sure that we’re building it in a way that’s best supporting teachers. Getting the arts included in the Australian curriculum was a very important step but the next big one is ensuring all schools, including those that don’t have specialist teachers in the arts are really well equipped and resourced and supported to have the confidence and the content to be able to deliver competently and confidently on that.’

The ARTS:LIVE that you  will see today is just the beginning of something much larger. ‘We’ve worked with a few partners in the first phase of ARTS:LIVE, the foundation phase,’ Aebersold says. 'We’ve worked with the Heide Museum of Modern Art with the visual arts resources, with ATOM on the media arts, we worked with Ausdance for dance resources and a number of other organisations, but we also engaged a number of specialist curriculum writers and arts educators individually. We had extremely tight timelines and a huge task in less than a year to get more than 400 resources online to cover all of the five arts across all of the year levels. Now that we have this great foundation, we’d like to expand out our partnerships to arts organisations all across Australia to really get that breadth and depth of expertise on the site.’

That will be even more important should schools choose to teach all five art forms. ‘There’s still a lot to be worked out on how each state and territory will mandate the arts across the five art forms in their jurisdictions and then how each individual school decides to implement that in terms of specialist teachers,’ Aebersold explains. ‘Many schools  don’t have specialist teachers in any art form, but the vast majority won’t have specialist teachers in all the art forms so it’s really important that we equip them with those resources to be able to have the options. If every student could get access to every art form, that would be the ideal outcome.’

That doesn’t mean having all the resources on site to make a start, says Aebersold. ‘Because our primary focus is still on accessibility and inclusion rather than on excellence, we have a lot of programs that we deliver in schools, whether it’s face-to-face or on ARTS:LIVE, that don’t need any equipment. There are all sorts of creative ways that we can get around that hurdle of resources. We can make sure, for example, that we use an instrument that we all have, which is the voice for singing programs. We can look at options where it’s not feasible for schools to purchase instruments that they might be able to make a found instruments orchestra, for example. It’s important that we have that choice for teachers, that diversity of everything from your more traditional instrumental program to a more contemporary and creative option that don’t require those sorts of physical resources. All of those options are on ARTS:LIVE.'

That leaves just one last thing. How do you access ART:LIVE? ‘Schools will be able to go to to go through a very simple registration process to access it for free, but they will also be able to access it through all the intranets and portals of all the state and territories’ education departments,’ she says.

The clip below was created by students of Elliot Primary School in Australia's Barkly Region in collaboration with Song Room Teaching Artists, who travelled to the region to deliver The Song Room's tailored music and arts programs. This particular project was funded by the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs through the Aboriginals Benefit Account.

About the author

Paul Isbel taught at primary and secondary level in government and private schools and has worked in teacher education at tertiary level. He has worked in online publishing since 1997.