EBacc threat to design removed in Gove U-turn

Campaigners for the creative industries have claimed victory as the Government abandons plans which may have sidelined art and design in secondary education, and confirms it is reforming the GCSE system to include design

Campaigners for the creative industries have claimed victory as the Government abandons plans which may have sidelined art and design in secondary education, and confirms it is reforming the GCSE system to include design

Under the original proposals for the reform of secondary education it was feared that arts and design subjects would be sidelined by not being included in the core ‘pillars’ of the new new Ebacc qualification. Today Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove has announced that the Government will introduce a ‘new eight-subject measure of GCSEs, including English and maths, three subjects out of sciences, languages, history and geography and three other subjects, such as art, music or RE’. The latter could include DT and other creative subjects. (More detail at Design Week, here).

Joe Macleod, global design director at ustwo and coordinator of the #IncludeDesign campaign said: “This is fantastic news for the whole of the design industry and creative economy. That Michael Gove is now listening to the 100 creative industry and education leaders who handed in a letter to Number 10 last week raising their serious concerns is a great step forwards. As an industry this gives us an opportunity to work with education leaders and the government to help support the shared vision of a world-class syllabus that offers students a fully rounded education. Without these changes to the EBacc, we would have lost the designers, architects and creativies of the future, as their talents would have been constricted by schools being pushed to prioritise an unnecessarily narrow range of subjects that reflected the past and not the future. The creative industries are worth more than £60 billion a year to the UK economy and it would have been a catastrophe if creative subjects such as design & technology had been lost from schools at Key Stage 4. Now we need to see the same breadth included at A Level too.”

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians and coordinator of the Bacc for the Future campaign has welcomed the anouncement as “good news for children and good news for education. We must learn from the last six months of consultation and ensure we work together to create high quality and rigorous GCSEs and A Levels with appropriate assessment fit for the 21st Century. Creative subjects such as art, music and design and technology need to stay at the heart of education so that we can develop talented youngsters to feed our creative industries and generate growth.

“The voices of the creative industries and education sectors have been listened to, and we welcome this. We will now be looking closely at the new proposed National Curriculum for music and work with the Government to ensure that we have a National Curriculum, GCSEs and A-levels fit for the future.”

The changes were also hailed by Liz Wilkins, senior marketing manager at Adobe Education UK: “We have always maintained that the omission of design and the wider arts in the Government’s planned GCSE reforms was a fundamental flaw in the Ebacc proposals,” she says. “The u-turn is a huge victory on the part of the creative industries, who have campaigned through initiatives such as #IncludeDesign and #baccforthefuture, for a revision of the plans, and will prevent future generations of students leaving school with a gaping hole in their secondary education.

“Our own research tells us that 77% of UK employers and university lecturers place a high value on creativity in school leavers, with 78% of people in the UK in agreement that creativity is key to driving economic growth. The UK is renowned for its creativity thanks to its successes in fashion, art, design, film, food and music, so providing all students with access to creative subjects is essential to our future economic success.

“A programme of study devoid of any arts tuition at all would threaten to stifle creativity further. And whilst there is still work to be done in ensuring young people leave school with the necessary skills that will make them an attractive hire for an employer, we’re in a much better position to achieve that today than we were yesterday.”

As part of the campaign to include design and creative subjects at the heart of secondary education, both Design Week editor Angus Montgomery and CR editor Patrick Burgoyne wrote open letters to Michael Gove. Many other leading figures in the creative community also made representations to Government. Both Joe Macleod and Deborah Annetts are to be particularly congratulated for their efforts in both formalising and organising opposition to the plans.

  • Louis Tuckman

    I think there needs to be a bit more debate about why we need to have good art & design education in schools. I’m currently studying in university and only left A Level education 3 years ago and quite frankly I think that art education at school is actually quite damaging to general public opinion of the arts, taught in the way it was when I was at school. The arts are about thinking for yourself, about expression and experimentation, not about a teacher telling you that if you do all the things he has written down on this list then you will get this mark. The sciences and subjects like them should be taught in the current way because many things are right and wrong in these subjects, where as the arts are about personal opinion. Millions of creatively brained kids grow up thinking that they are thick because they are only judged in school by how well they can tick the boxes for an exam or for coursework, when actually if they had lessons in school on art in the way that you get taught on art foundation courses and at university, where you’re not taught to be a drone but actually taught to be creative they would realise that they are actually really good at something.

  • Sarah Barton

    Louis – I hope you were just unlucky if your art education at school was like that. Both the current National Curriculum for Art and Design and the GCSE syllabuses place a high priority on creative thinking and personal development and expression of ideas, experimentation etc. Not all teachers are good teachers, and it sounds as if your teacher at school was more focused on achieving results for the department than on developing the creative abilities of the students. Unfortunately in the current high-stakes climate where results are the be-all-and-end-all as far as the DfE is concerned, and schools face forced academy status if they don’t meet the ever-rising ‘floor-targets’, the pressure on teachers to get results at any cost is only going to rise. This climate is the enemy of creativity. Teachers need to feel free to experiment, to take risks and be creative just as much as their students.