The decline in the creative arts in this country because of the Ebacc threatens one of Britain’s most successful sectors – we need a campaign to save them

For decades the UK has basked in the glory of nurturing a commendable pool of creative talent – ready to succeed in the world of the creative arts and design.

This includes producing a rich array of musical talent and the technological expertise it takes to ensure that talent is enjoyed by as wide an audience as possible.

Indeed, so successful have we been in producing creative talent that its annual economic value to the country is estimated at a staggering £84 billion a year.

Now, though, comes a report published today showing a worrying decline in the nurturing of that talent in schools – coinciding with the decision to leave the arts out of the core subjects included in the English Baccalaureate at GCSE level.

The report, published by the Higher Education Policy Institute and researched by Professor John Last – the vice-chancellor of Norwich University of the Arts – shows teachers are reporting a poorer level of pupil attainment on arrival at secondary school in skills such as painting and drawing.

Art and design and design and technology are also considered by teachers to be harder subjects to secure A or A* grade passes at GCSE – thus losing out in popularity to other subjects in the race to secure as good a showing as possible in A* to C grade passes.

A survey of schools in the neighbourhood of the university revealed 57 per cent have experienced a decline in take-up of art and design and 59 per cent a similar drop in design and technology. Take-up at GCSE level has dropped 6 per cent between 2015 and 2016 in art and design. Design and technology has suffered a catastrophic 42 per cent decline since 2010.

I could go on bombarding you with figures, but I think you probably get the general picture.

Creative arts campaign

A couple of years ago I remembering reporting on then-education secretary Nicky Morgan saying that if you wanted to good job in the modern world then you would be best served by pursuing science options at school. Many saw that as an attempt to downgrade the importance of the arts, although she was at pains afterwards to deny that was what she meant.

The figures produced today show that we need a campaign of the intensity of the one to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects to rectify the downgrading of the arts in recent years.

The campaign is given the acronym ADaM is today’s report – Art, Design and Media – by the report.

I have always been horrified by the thought of science qualifications becoming the be-all and end-all of a successful education. I will put my cards on the table – I received 8 per cent in my mock chemistry exam and was refused permission to go on and take it at O level. I would never have qualified for the English Baccalaureate as presently constructed – yet I like to think I have been a net contributor to the economy during 47 years of continuous employment rather than a leech on society.

So I’m backing ADaM – get the T-shirts and badges printed immediately.

Richard Garner was education editor of The Independent for 12 years, and previously news editor of Tes. He has been writing about education for more than three decades

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