Developing future leaders through performing arts
By Fiona Cottam, Principal and Chief Academic Officer at Hartland International School

Over the last two years, the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) agenda has begun to evolve into the STEAM agenda with the inclusion of the Arts as an integral part of curriculum design. The STEAM agenda actively encourages innovation through the development of knowledge and skills so as to support the next generation of pioneers and encourage them to find solutions to real world issues.
This shift highlights the important role of the Arts in society. There are huge parallels across these agendas in terms of how creativity helps underpin innovation, nurturing and developing overall confidence in young people. We should not underestimate the importance of developing expression and communication skills through the Arts, but also the ability to express emotions and of course, nurture hidden talents and enjoyment.
Getting rid of labels
The Arts subjects should very much be on an equal level with every other subject in a school’s curriculum as we have a responsibility to offer children the opportunity to explore a wide range and breadth of subjects. No subject is mutually exclusive and indeed, the mathematician can be the gifted musician whilst the artist is the budding engineer: lack of inclusion of the Arts or indeed any subject could limit a child’s willingness to explore new things throughout their school career and into adult life and thereby limit opportunities.
At Hartland International School, we are committed to not labelling children. Our teachers actively encourage and extend each child’s natural curiosity and enthusiasm as they build their range of skills. Of course, where we see a particular talent, we commit to nurturing it further and harnessing energy and talents productively, but we always try to inspire our students to explore other potential skills and talents.
Nurturing future leaders
It is always remarkable to watch children flourish in a very short time through their engagement with the Performing Arts. By giving them encouragement and a stage, whether physically or metaphorically, children grow through exploration and discovery and the associated risk taking gives them a different type of confidence.
This sureness helps in the development of leadership skills and in concepts and areas of team building and creative innovative thinking. Leadership skills we know are crucial for societal growth and sustainability: whether that be preparing our children for the task of becoming a global CEO or entrepreneur, a leader in their community or a leader in their family. Leadership manifests itself in many different ways, and by teaching Performing Arts, we tap into an array of different areas of the psyche that help children to develop into confident adults and leaders.
One way in which we are working to reinvigorate Performing Arts for talented young people here in the UAE is through an exciting, and ongoing collaboration with the legendary, London-based Sylvia Young Theatre School (SYTS) and Hartland International School. SYTS boasts an array of famous alumni and offers children living in the UAE with an invaluable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help them to discover and develop their passions. Our Spring course was a huge success and this on-going partnership will see Sylvia and her team return to us in the October break.
Confidence in the UAE
With the introduction of a more formal ‘Moral Education’ programme, our curriculum development looks to draw on wider aspects of life and develop a better understanding and appreciation of society and the world. Underpinning this is our responsibility to encourage children to participate in, and be a part of something, that is bigger than themselves as well as ensuring the emotional well-being and happiness of society. This wellbeing and happiness of children has always been crucial in the operational philosophy of great schools but it is now at the forefront of curriculum change and is therefore of utmost importance for us as a school. We draw inspiration from the thinking and leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum whose Cabinet has been tasked with focusing on the future, youth, happiness and developing education. The appointments of positions such as Ministers for Happiness and Youth are visionary and are a testament to the positive ethos of this incredible Emirate and country.
Oscar Wilde once said that the Arts were crucial to the development of society because of the importance they place on…. “the individual, their liberty, self-expression, creativity, and personal responsibility.” At Hartland, we believe that the teaching of Performing Arts builds on the strength and happiness of the UAE and supports the national agenda. The development of and the focus on the Arts is just one way of capturing the imagination and spirit of children. What better way to celebrate the incredible diversity of this Nation than through its youth and their learning and ultimate success?

Fiona Cottam
Hartland International School