Children are at the heart of our charity. We wish that society and politicians would do the same, and put children first. The current mental health of our children is a huge concern. Prior to lockdown, one in six children had a probable mental problem. Who knows how this figure will have escalated when we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic. We cannot provide answers but we can reach out to all the parents and carers who are doing their best to help their children cope with adversity and adapt to change. Please know that we respect and admire you.
We urge politicians to accept that alongside the learning deficit, it is important to allow our children to catch up with the fun deficit. Extra work and no play will not make children clever. Education and health are closely linked – pupils with better health and wellbeing are likely to achieve better academically. We must find ways to keep children socialising safely, to enable them to let off steam and have adventures with their peers.
The arts have an important part to play in every child’s life. Dance improves their physical health and self-esteem, drama improves social skills, learning an instrument helps them to cope with stress, and creating visual art helps them to develop a sense of identity and increases resilience. These are all vital skills that our children need post-pandemic. We will be exploring how the arts can play their part in the recovery curriculum as part of Arts Backpack UK pilots. We hope that the government will follow our example and give every child the creative nourishment they deserve.
Let the arts into their lives, to help to heal us all.
Vicky Ireland, MBE FRSA
Chair, Action for Children’s Arts