Like many mums the length and breadth of the country, I’m currently waiting to find out if my son has got into our chosen secondary school. There are quite a few we could have gone for here where we live in London’s Brent, and we could have chosen some which boast far better academic achievements. The one we’ve picked is nowhere near the top of the secondary school league table for the area.
So why have we chosen to send our son there? Because at a time when many schools are struggling to maintain arts subjects, this school prizes the teaching of creative subjects all the way to A Level: something I think will be crucial for my boy’s future.
I think it’s crazy that more and more schools are turning their backs on teaching creative subjects. According to BBC research published on Tuesday, nine in 10 secondary of schools in England it spoke to had cut back on lesson time, staff or facilities in at least one creative subject. I’m not saying that they should stop teaching the likes of maths and science but in my opinion, teaching our children creativity, problem solving and how to develop their imaginations will be even more vital if they’re going to have a career in the 21st Century. In fact, it will be vital to Britain’s economic future.
Why? Well for one thing, we’re already seeing facing a lack of innovation in Britain. And what leads to innovation? Creativity.
Plus, AI is going to have an increasing impact with even more jobs being made obsolete. But AI is never going to able to replicate human creativity or people skills.
There’s going to be an increase in tech jobs as our future becomes ever more online and connected – but again, who’s going to come up with the next big thing in digital if they haven’t been taught to think creatively?
The jobs market is changing – there’s no such thing as job for life anymore. With retirement ages and pensions vanishing into the horizon, you’re going to have a myriad number of jobs or occupations in your lifetime and you’re going to have to think creatively if you’re going to have to constantly reinvent your career.
Skills such as emotional intelligence, innovation and the ability to deal with change are going to be vital as the world continues to evolve rapidly in the 21st Century, and creativity is the key to all of these.
But instead, the government has been putting an increasing emphasis on traditional subjects, promoting STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths), but squeezing out the arts. How can you not have a creative curriculum in the world we live in? It’s mad.
The Conservatives actually believe that studying creative subjects – the humanities and the arts – will limit their career choices later in life, when it can be argued that the complete opposite is true, and introduced the school performance measurement the EBacc as result, which only counts English, maths, history or geography, the sciences and a language, and therefore excludes any arts subjects.
We need more creativity in teaching too – children are not being taught to love learning. Teachers are hamstrung by an under-funded system that puts an over-emphasis on constant testing, grading and exams – there’s no time for them to do anything else. They’re just teaching kids to pass their exams - they’re not teaching kids to love learning.
As result of all these factors, many schools have ditched many arts subjects, as they have no impact on where they land in the league tables (the EBacc has seen to that) and therefore could negatively impact their funding. I think this is lunacy.
Where are the creatives, the artists, the film and TV makers, song writers, video game makers, authors, fashion designers, designers and innovators of the future going to come from?
The UK’s creative industries are now worth a record £91.8 billion a year to the economy, and the sector grew by 7.6% over 2015-2016 – more than twice as fast as the economy as a whole, which grew by 3.5% in the same period. This is according to the latest government figures – so why is there such a disconnect between what we teach in schools and what our economic future is?
The government’s approach to education is forcing schools to place their emphasis on learning facts by rote in a bid to get the exam results they need to get up the league tables. It’s the wrong metric. Why aren’t we teaching our kids to express themselves, to be innovative, self-control, to be able to define themselves? Our future will rely on soft skills – yet the current education system is failing to equip our kids with them.
That’s why I’ve chosen this particular secondary school for my son. I just hope to God he gets in - we’ll certainly have to think creatively about what to do if he doesn’t….