A report on the Future of Cultural Values, conducted by
Warwick University, suggests that today’s school pupils are missing out on quality
arts and culture education, despite National Curriculum requirements.
Between 2003 and 2013, GCSE applications for art and design fell by half,
with a drop also seen in other arts subjects, like drama and music. This
had an obvious knock-on effect for AS level uptake and, subsequently,
opportunities for teachers and tutors in arts subjects have fallen. In
universities, some specialist arts courses such as furniture making have
been axed altogether.
Although a more recent study shows that GCSE uptake in arts subjects rose
between 2013 and 2014, it’s thought that one reason for the overall
fall over the last decade is cost. While schools supply basic materials,
they often require students to purchase their own sketch books or specialist
materials for woodworking, textiles or product design – costs which
can out-price lower income families.
Others point the finger at the government’s focus on STEM subjects
(science, technology, engineering and maths), suggesting that, even within
these core subjects, creativity plays an important role that needs to
be nurtured. The introduction of the
English Baccalaureate(EBacc) has also been cited as a cause. Introduced as a performance measure
in schools from 2010, teenagers can be awarded the EBacc qualification
if they achieve a grade C or higher in GCSE English, maths, science, history
or geography, and a language. There is, however, no arts option within
the EBacc. In response, some schools have dropped subjects such as textiles
and design technology. Under Gove, there were plans to scrap GCSEs entirely,
swapping them for EBacc qualifications – a scheme which was scrapped in 2013.
Arts as an important way of enjoying and enriching life, as well as a therapeutic
aid. Painting, crocheting and knitting can be wonderfully relaxing, as
well as rewarding; crafts often play a key role in psychiatric therapy,
and music is well-known for it’s calming and confidence-building
qualities. Despite reducing the potential for Britain to produce leading
artists, actors, architects, script writers, musicians…, it is
thought that a fall in creativity could dilute wider and more general
interest and enthusiasm for British arts and culture. With lower income
families at the greatest risk, this could create a deep cultural divide
between the richest and poorest.
In response, the Department for Education recently increased their funding
for arts-related education projects. It’s also hoped that new craft
initiative and TV programmes like
The Great British Sewing Bee could help weave arts, crafts and creativity back into English culture.