The Institute of Education’s move to the refurbished London Road site has provided an opportunity for the University to show a willingness to become more actively involved in the cultural life of the town. By way of seizing this opportunity, all schools and arts organisations within a 30 mile radius were invited to attend an early evening meeting at London Road on March 27th. The purpose of the meeting was to establish a new network for teachers and artists concerned with education to share their practice and expertise and find new ways of collaborating on projects. The event was introduced by Dr Andy Kempe, Senior Lecturer in Drama Education and a recent recipient of the University’s Teaching Fellowship Award. Dr Kempe welcomed the 40 or so attendees and explained how he and his colleagues in the IoE were feeling invigorated by the recent re-location and were excited by the possibilities it afforded. Not only is the site superbly equipped to train new teachers in the arts, it represents a beautiful and indeed secure location for exhibitions, workshops and festivals involving children, young people and a range of community groups. Dr Kempe expressed his personal desire to see the campus buzzing as staff and students of the university, teachers and pupils from local schools, and artists and arts groups made London Road a hub for cultural and educational activity.

Following this introduction, attendees were given a tour of the new facilities, in particular those spaces designed for specialist education in art, music and drama. The whole of the IoE’s team of arts educators were on hand to answer questions and hear suggestions regarding how the facilities might be utilised to serve the local arts education community. Attendees were then invited to add comments and suggestions to four discussion boards which carried the following questions:

  • How might the University help your school develop its arts education programme?
  • How do you think the London Road site might best be utilised to develop arts education in the Reading area?
  • Would it be useful for the Reading Arts Education Forum to meet regularly? If so, what business should it attend to?
  • How useful would it be for Reading Arts Education Forum to issue a regular e newsletter? What sort of items could it carry?

The collated responses give a wholly enthusiastic to the idea of establishing the Arts Education Forum for Reading and produced a number of ideas that will help IoE staff start to formulate plans for a vibrant future. Around 40 individuals turned up to the meeting and several others sent apologies and asked to be kept informed of its outcomes and intended future developments. A Wiki has already been set up in order to provide schools and arts groups a place to share news of events and initiatives and plans are afoot to work with outside:inside on a ‘Learn’ festival in the autumn.

The IoE is certainly determined to contribute to the continuing development of teachers and artists through an expanding programme of courses, workshops and summer schools which, it is hoped, will involve staff and students from across the University. New modules have been written to add to the existing MA in Education suite so from September 2012 candidates will be able to specialise and work towards a MA in Arts Education. In the words of one respondent to the discussion boards the aim is to ‘Excite! Push! Stretch! Inspire!’

Andy Kempe