Parliament has been pretty pre-occupied recently for obvious reasons – Britain’s exit from the EU has stolen attention away from the British people in a manner previously only attainable by The X-Factor. But the rest of the world keeps spinning, as does Britain within it, and there are other subjects in debate that could also have an effect on the UK’s future – including ours in the design industry.
Last year a petition was started that would make subjects in the arts part of the English Baccalaureate (Ebacc). Ebacc is a way of measuring the performance of pupils in a school based on five key GCSE subjects. It maintains that good education consists of English, maths, science, a language and a humanity (geography or history). The argument of the campaigners was that, in a country that constantly demands more creative workers, creative subjects should be given equal emphasis. Many believe that, with the five subjects making up for seven GCSEs (English and Science usually take up two GCSEs each), it doesn’t leave much room for artistic subjects that could blossom or encourage enthusiasm for the creative industry, such as design. Worse yet, campaigners also claim that so much emphasis is being put on the current Ebacc ‘key subjects’ that resources are being diverted away from creative subjects. According to them, 44% of teachers say creative subjects at schools have been downgraded and 93% of teachers of creative subjects agree.
Artist and creative education ambassador, Rob and Roberta Smith (one person), spoke to Digital Arts Online in January about the importance of creative education. He said, “It’s about empowering kids. There are a number of lessons in schools which the teacher knows the right answer: maths and sciences. There are a number of lessons in schools where the kids have the right answers: the creative subjects, the English, dance, drama, and the arts.”
Smith wants kids to be encouraged to think creatively and is worried that without creative subjects as an essential part of education, the numbers of students moving towards creative careers will be significantly stunted.
On July 4th parliament finally debated the subject, but seemed unconvinced at the concerns put forward by Labour MP Catherine McKinnell. Contrary to the campaigners’ claims, The Department of Education released a statement claiming, ‘Thousands more students took GCSEs in arts subjects in 2015 compared to previous years.’
The government’s conclusion was that things in art and design education are just swell. That’s paraphrased, of course, they actually said, “The Government believes that arts subjects are important. That is why art and design and music are compulsory subjects within the national curriculum for 5 – 14-year-olds. Pupils also have to study drama, as part of the English curriculum, and dance, as part of the PE curriculum. At key stage 4, the Government does not believe it is right that every student should have to study an arts subject, but all pupils in maintained schools have a statutory entitlement to be able to study an arts subject if they wish (comprising art and design, music, dance, drama and media arts) as well as design and technology.”
Do you think artistic subjects should be as important as maths and science? What effect will this have on the next generation of designers, if any? Why not let us know your thoughts at @Dusted – most correct opinion wins a prize! (Not really, obviously)