Crafts Council launches Education Manifesto

The Crafts Council has today launched a new education manifesto urging schools to put craft and making at the heart of the curriculum and build more routes into craft careers.

Posters by Anthony Burrill (manifesto designed by Cog)

The Crafts Council has today launched a new education manifesto urging schools to put craft and making at the heart of the curriculum and build more routes into craft careers.

The manifesto was published on the Crafts Council’s website this morning and will be presented to politicians at the House of Commons. The Council has also published an open letter in The Times, backed by over 100 signatories including Grayson Perry, broadcasters Kevin McLoud and Kirstie Allsop, Aardman creative director Peter Lord and industry figures from the Design Council, Crafts Scotland, the Design Museum, the RCA and London’s University of the Arts.

The manifesto makes five key calls for change “to secure the future of craft education” in the UK. While craft generates an estimated £3.4 billion for the economy and employs around 150,000, the Crafts Council claims it is at risk, with participation in craft-related subjects falling dramatically in the past few years.

“In six years, 2007-2013, student participation in craft-related GCSEs fell 25%. In higher education, the number of craft courses fell 46%. This comes when elsewhere around the
globe, investment in creative education and making is rising. At this critical time we have the chance to secure craft education for the future,” it explains in an introduction.

You can read the manifesto in full here – but below is a summary of the five key calls for change and suggestions for how it can be achieved:

1. Put craft and making at the heart of education

To tackle falling interest in taking up craft-related GCSE subjects, the Crafts Council recommends devoting more curriculum time to craft and making.

“We believe every child has a right to discover their talent for making. We want craft to have a more central role in education and to reverse the decline in take up of craft-related GCSEs. We must build on exemplars of excellence to celebrate craft and making as essential to rounded learning,” it states.

To do this, it suggests placing more emphasis on developing making skills, connecting schools with local makers, craft businesses, galleries and museums and promoting the value of craft in various industries to both parents and students.

The manifesto urges the Government to remove “discount codes that act as a disincentive to studying craft-related GCSEs [new codes introduced by the Government last year mean several arts subjects at Key Stage 4, such as graphic design and ceramics, that only one can count towards a school’s performance in league tables]”; revise qualification titles “to restore the presence of craft”; ask Ofqual to report on how the qualifications market meets the needs of creative education and employment and ask Ofsted to review the criteria for outstanding schools to recognise teaching and learning in arts, craft and design.

2. Build more routes into craft careers

The Crafts Council’s second call for action aims to encourage more people to take up careers in craft and boost diversity in the creative industries.

“We want fair access and a more diverse craft workforce. There are excellent exemplars of
formal and informal apprenticeships in businesses, social enterprises, and livery companies. Yet opportunities are patchy. We must create more training opportunities in craft and more collaboration between formal and informal education sectors,” it states.

Suggestions include bringing more makers into schools to act as role models and ambassadors, boosting apprenticeship opportunities by forging links between colleges and businesses and creating resources to raise awareness among teachers, students and parents of the different career opportunities in craft and provide clear information on different learning routes.

The Government is urged to incentivise schools to value vocational progression “on an equal standing with progression into university education” and continue offering an apprenticeship grant to small businesses, with increased incentives for “micro-enterprises.” It also suggests that Ofsted continue to make careers guidance a high priority in school and college inspections and that schools include craft careers “in meeting their statutory duties
to provide impartial careers advice and guidance.”

3. Bring craft enterprise into education

The Council’s third call to action is to promote enterprise at every stage of learning. “Education through making develops valued enterprise and employability skills for all, not only those who go on to work, or set up business, in the sector,” it states.

It suggests embedding enterprise education in higher and further education courses, providing materials on new business models, including best practice in start-ups and advice on accessing finance, and encouraging craft businesses to join local “enterprise advisor networks” for schools.

It also asks that the Government embed enterprise education in schools through teaching, syllabuses and exams, in line with Lord Young’s Enterprise For All report published in June this year, and give teachers business experience as part of their initial teacher training, as well as ensuring Government-supported enterprise training “is as accessible to micro-enterprises as it is to larger businesses.”

4. Invest in skills throughout careers

“Every child has a right to be taught by trained, confident teachers. Yet teacher training places in arts subjects are falling, and art and design teachers are increasingly having to self-fund continuing professional development (CPD). We need more training places to teach craft subjects and more support for teachers’ CPD,” states the manifesto.

To do this, the Crafts Council suggests developing accreditation of teacher CPD in craft disciplines, strengthening partnerships between schools, makers, colleges and informal learning to create more opportunities for teachers to develop their skills; and using social media to create “communities of practice for makers and educators to develop and exchange skills.”

The Government is asked to strengthen Ofsted inspection frameworks so schools can only be judged “outstanding” for overall effectiveness if they have outstanding teaching and teacher education and introduce business finance loans for micro-enterprise professional development.

5. Promote world-class higher education and research in craft

While UK craft degrees continue to attract some of the world’s top students, the Crafts Council notes “a sharp fall” in the number of specialist courses. The final call for change suggests investing in cutting-edge artistic and scientific research in craft and making to ensure continued excellence in teaching.

The manifesto suggests embedding enterprise research in higher education to support “the fusion of creative, business and technological education” and researching the impact of haptic skills on cognitive learning and development.

It also asks that the Government invest in craft research “including through Research Councils and business growth and innovation agencies”; review how the supply of courses nationally reflects the breadth of the UK’s craft disciplines and consider raising funding for intermediate-cost studio-based subjects “to ensure that quality and provision are maintained.”

The future of creative education has been the subject of considerable debate under the coalition, but this is perhaps the clearest set of guidelines yet on how it can be protected and reformed.

Devoting more time to craft in the school curriculum will benefit all pupils regardless of whether they wish to pursue a career in the creative industries, while working more closely with industry, improving teacher training and boosting apprenticeship opportunities should help equip students with the skills and experience to become successful artists, makers, designers and entrepreneurs.

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