VADEA NSW Consultation Advice on the Review of the Creative Arts K–6 Syllabus

VADEA NSW welcomes the opportunity to engage in consultation with the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) in the Creative Arts K-6 Draft Directions for Syllabus Development. This review provides an opportunity to modify and develop syllabus provisions for each of the discrete art forms (Visual Arts, Music, Drama, Dance), whilst maintaining equality within the Creative Arts K-6.

VADEA NSW recognises the options proposed within the draft directions represent progress in the area of syllabus revision, while remaining mindful of our strong historical objection of the Australian Curriculum for the Arts. VADEA NSW has repeatedly highlighted the inadequacies of the Australian Curriculum: Arts, and believe that this opportunity allows us to complement and improve on the strengths of what is already in place in NSW. In moving forward, VADEA NSW acknowledges the obligation for NESA to supplement syllabus with selected aspects of the Australian curriculum, in conjunction with the formal endorsement of the Arts curriculum by all Ministers in 2013.

VADEA NSW sees this consultation process as an opportunity for members to engage with syllabus renewal and build on our efforts to amend the existing syllabus with additions that best reflect contemporary practice and thinking. VADEA NSW acknowledges that the review is developed with respect to the NESA K-10 Curriculum Framework and Statement of Equity Principles, and the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (2008) (p.4), and recognise the importance in accommodating diverse learning needs within syllabus development. In accordance with the Education Act 1990 (NSW) and current NESA curriculum requirements in the Creative Arts, VADEA NSW supports the preservation of current provisions including the allocation of time (p.6).

The Review of the Creative Arts K-6 syllabus presents an opportunity for members to engage with syllabus renewal and build on the work of VADEA NSW in this space over the past seven years. It provides members with an opportunity to endorse a learning framework that supports diverse learners in the Creative Arts, reorder concepts and address issues of an overcrowded curriculum, by providing a pathway for a more streamlined solution. It is important that VADEA members provide feedback on the K-6 review as it has implications for the positioning and grounding of the 7-10 Visual Arts review in the near future.


“Option 1 retains each discipline area as discrete, consistent with all NSW creative arts syllabuses K–12. Option 1 proposes Making and Investigating as interconnected learning experiences. The Learning Framework, describing the roles and relationships between artists/performers, art forms, world and audience, supports the development of knowledge, understanding and skills in Making and Investigating.” -Introduction to the Creative Arts K-6 Draft Directions for Syllabus Development

Response: This is the preferred option of VADEA NSW

• It is essential that each artform is regarded as a discrete discipline and this option supports this, whilst also providing common content organisers that respond to the concerns of primary school educators that the current curriculum is overcrowded.

• ‘Investigating’ is not an appropriate term and cannot adequately address the nature of critical interpretation and judgement in the Arts. It is a term that misrepresents the ability of primary school students to ascribe meaning to a work of art and to make judgements of value. Investigating art does not respect students with the capacity to ascribe meanings to works of art and does not adequately address the central role of interpretation and therepresentational nature of knowing in art. The term ‘investigating’ denies students opportunity to learn what is to think critically and adopt the role of critics and/or historians in the artworld. ‘Investigating’ is a part of the role of these practitioners (artists/critics/historians) however, it is not distinct as a mode of engagement in its own right when situated in art.

• The term ‘interpret’ is suggested to replace ‘investigation’ and enhance Option 1. ‘Interpret’ provides a more accurate description of the form, character and qualities of the meaning of art forms. Primary school students learn to engage in the interpretation of art/artworld phenomena and to construct meaning, to take an active intentional role in building ideas and representing their views. The term ‘interpret’ honours their capacity to advance from naïve to more autonomous critical learners as they develop and exert their own beliefs and desires as artworld agents in their actions and thinking when making art, as well as in their formulation of judgements of meaning and value when dealing with representational forms they and others make.

• Remove description- ’respond to their own works’ (p.9) – students can explain and interpret. Meaning is constructed – not embodied or self-evident.

• Replace ‘use’ with ‘represent’ under making and investigating (‘They explore how artists represent subject matter…’, p.9)

• VADEA NSW supports the ‘learning framework’ as acknowledging artworld agencies across each discipline. These basic conceptual organisers make existing syllabus provisions more explicit. The learning framework can apply to all creative arts. These concepts underscore students developing representational agency and their practical intentional activity as makers and as critics of art.


“Option 2 retains discrete learning experiences for each discipline area – Performing, Organising Sound and Listening in Music; Making and Appreciating in Visual Arts; Performing, Composing and Appreciating in Dance; Making, Performing and Appreciating in Drama. This is consistent with the current NSW Creative Arts K–6 Syllabus. Knowledge, understanding and skills are developed by investigating the world, making and performing work(s), appreciating the work(s) of others and acknowledging the role of audiences.” -Introduction to the Creative Arts K-6 Draft Directions for Syllabus Development

Response: This is the second choice of VADEA NSW

• This option most closely reflects a continuum of the status quo. Content for each artform is discipline specific in this option and this provides continuity for teachers. This option does not address issues that have become apparent with primary school teachers with regards to an overcrowded syllabus and maintains language and concepts that are now outdated.

• Appreciating (p 13) is an outdated term and should be replaced with the term ‘Interpreting’. ‘Appreciation’ allows only for limited representation of any interpretive agency and places the audience in a more passive role. The term ‘interpretation’ encompasses both investigating and appreciating but allows teachers to foster a more active role in their students as they construct critical accounts and consider the impact artworks have on audiences. Interpreting is not passive but an active form of agency wherein students make sense of the meaning and value of artworks.

• The learning framework is implicit in this option, however, Option 1 allows for a more elegant and enhanced revision of the learning framework in a manner that is more accessible for teachers


“Option 3 considers the learning experiences Making and Responding as common across all creative arts discipline areas. Content is developed for each art form through making and responding. Knowledge, understanding and skills are developed by exploring ideas, developing skills, and sharing and responding to works in Music, Visual Arts, Dance and Drama.” -Introduction to the Creative Arts K-6 Draft Directions for Syllabus Development

Response: VADEA NSW REJECTS this option unconditionally

This option is most closely aligned to the Australian Curriculum for the Arts and represents the lowest common denominator. It would be an erosion of Visual Arts education in NSW.

• The use of ‘responding’ as a term is limiting, incorrect and does not apply as universal structure in all arts subjects. Responding is not respectful of students’ capacity to form knowledge as active learners capable of constructing theories, beliefs and understandings and skills. Responding fails to acknowledge the role of critical interpretation as a core aspect of knowledge development in the arts subjects. Responding fails to acknowledge the role of art historical practice in the arts subjects.

• NESA (formally BOSTES) stated in 2012 that “The use of the generic strands Making and Responding does not accommodate arts-specific language, structures and practices” (Board of Studies NSW, Draft Australian Curriculum: The Arts Foundation to Year 10 Consultation Report, 2012)

• The strands should be represented as Making and Interpreting.

• This model does not explain how students develop understandings of art/s world practitioners, audiences, works or representational ideas.

• Interpretation is a practice underscored by a knowledge of what, why and how critics/historian do things. Critics and historians in the artworld do not respond, but rather they construct explanations of practices in the artworld. All viewers of art, whether artists, critics or historians, rely on a practical and conceptual forms of knowledge rather than intuitive personalised responses to write and talk about art or make it. Audiences engage critical knowledge to interpret artworks and associated artworld practices.


If you are attending a consultation meeting, have an opportunity to provide feedback via the online survey or provide feedback through other means, please consider that:

1. VADEA NSW supports Option 1 as a preferred course structure. However this option requires additional amendments as outlined above.
• VADEA NSW believe that Option 2 reproduces current syllabus provisions and requires greater development, modification and elaboration. This would be our second preference.
• VADEA NSW rejects Option 3 in that it is most closely aligned to the Australian Curriculum for the Arts and is inconsistent with Creative Arts K-6, and Visual Arts 7-12 in NSW. This is our least favoured option.

2. In addition, VADEA NSW would strongly recommend the implementation of project teams to help support the development of support documents following the completion of syllabus development in the Creative Arts K-6.

Prepared by the VADEA NSW Executive 2017
Link to NESA information page for consultation meeting locations and times