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Arts take front row at Curtin

JOHN Curtin Senior High School will be renamed the John Curtin College of the Arts next year as the final part in a 1989 plan to sharpen the school’s focus on the arts.

Principal William Izett said the school already had “an established program of lively arts including dance and drama” which had been in operation since 1973.

Additional special program status will be granted to the school as an all-encompassing curriculum of arts subjects is offered including contemporary dance, ballet, drama, music with an emphasis on composition and jazz, music theatre and arts media which encompasses radio, TV and journalism.

“In 1989 we were given a new administrative structure and new music program to complement our dance and drama programs, and we’ve been working through the local education planning process since then,” Mr Izett said.

“We are supported by the Education Department with additional resources being supplied to bring the special programs to international standard.”

Mr Izett said the school will be unique from other arts-based colleges as it won’t be structured to cater for the purely gifted students.

“We are taking an arts-infused approach to learning — a cross-curriculum approach that will not favour arts to the detriment of other subjects,” he said.

“Rather, there will be an emphasis on an integrated approach to the arts. Students excelling in maths and science will be challenged to use the right side of the brain more and see where arts and these areas are interrelated.

“The arts has relevance to all other topics, and gives us deeper, more critical understanding of them. Students become more aware of learning processes rather than content”.

“Exposing arts-geared students to broader areas of the arts such as set design opens up avenues to multiskilling, which is particularly relevant in today’s workplace.”

Mr Izett said 75 per cent of the school’s Year 8 students start off on specialist programs.

“While the school has produced some professional artists such as Paul Mercurio and Kim McCarthy, who is the principal of the Madrid Ballet, we don’t expect all students to go pro.

“The arts are limited in terms of being able to make a living but it is an excellent training for life.

“An education without arts is a diminished one, as is one without science and maths. Our aim is all about redressing the imbalance that has existed previously, where the arts have been neglected.”

An ex-head of physics and chemistry, Mr Izett said the traditional methods for teaching science and mathematics topics can be alienating to critically-minded arts students.

“They develop sophisticated problem solving skills in theatre, then walk into maths and get dictated to for an hour. That approach doesn’t work on them,” he said.

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