Counting the cost of Creativity

There has been discussion this week around the possible consequences for creative subjects in schools as a result of the Tory Government’s push for more pupils to study the EBacc subjects. As there is no creative subject in the EBacc list, any push to widen the scope of that group of subjects could have a disastrous effect on those curriculum areas left out of the EBacc grouping.

Does it matter? Of course it does. While the idea of Progress 8 that was championed by the Liberal Democrat part of the former coalition recognised the worth of creative subjects, the present government clearly prefers geography to art and history to music and anything it seems to design and technology.

However, these creative art subjects and the associated performing arts subjects are an important part of both what makes England what it is and of our wealth generating industries. The latter is a fact it seems completely overlooked at the DfE, at least at ministerial levels. But, think of the earnings from our rich music culture that spans the gamut from popular to experimental. For a number of years I was invited to the Schools Prom every November and witnessed both a transformation in the range of music on offer and also in the diversity of schools encouraging a love of music in their pupils. Perhaps my most abiding memory was of a Norfolk Middle Schools marching round the stage of the Royal Albert Hall and containing pupils of all abilities. Do we really want to lose this heritage? Do we really want to ignore the possibility of enthusing those that could go on to create activities that support our national wealth in the future? Surely not.

The same arguments can be made for other subjects and especially, as I have pointed out before on this blog, for design and technology. Whether it been food preparation, sowing and textile design, electronics, carpentry or even the evolving use of 3D printing technology in new and creative ways, these are all important to generate enthusiasm in young people; have you read the piece on the BBC web site about using a 3D printer technology to create new food arrangements?  Even more importantly, these are areas of significant wealth generation and we impoverish future generations by not understanding this.

In the year we recognise the mid-point of the centenary of World War One, I don’t denigrate the importance of history, but merely observe that culture and creativity can be as important in the education of future generations.

As regular readers of this blog might expect, I am not just relying upon sentiment or even the economic arguments to make the case that these subjects are under threat, but have had a look at the TeachVac data. In the first six months of 2016, TeachVac has recorded a 24% fall in advertised posts for main scale teachers of art and design; a 17% fall in advertised posts for design and technology and an almost unchanged level in demand for teachers of music. Since TeachVac figures include both State Funded and independent schools it maybe that the decline in advertised posts is even greater in the State sector; we haven’t yet had time to drill down through the data.

To remove the creative subjects from our state secondary schools would be nothing short of a national disaster.


2 thoughts on “Counting the cost of Creativity

  1. Progress 8 may be hauled out as ‘proof’ that creative subjects haven’ been marginalised, the existence of EBacc as a performance measure counters that.
    The tragedy is that high-stakes exams at 16 distort the curriculum. Pupils should have a broad, balanced curriculum until 16 as in most developed countries where mandatory exams at 16, if they exist at all, are few and they are NOT high-stakes.. But in England, it seems subjects only have value if they are examined. As Michael Gove once said, ‘If it can’t be externally assessed, then it’s play’.

    • Janet,

      There is also a school of thought that if you just weigh a pig every week it gains weight. Remove expensive mandatory exams at 16 now staying in learning is required to 18?

      John Howson

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