UK creativity leads the world in originality, quality and innovation. Film, Fashion, Music, Advertising, and Design have all been driven forward by outstandingly original, entrepreneurial and determined British talent. We can all list them, for so broad is their impact that they are household names.
Figures published last week the Warwick Commission (Enriching Britain: Culture, Creativity and Growth) tell us that creativity is worth £76.9 billion to the UK economy and accounts for 1.71 million jobs (5.6% of all employment in the UK). Further research from the CEBR suggests that this will rise to be more than £100bn by 2018. It's an incredible success story and one that continues to defy the odds.
Yet today, the UK's creative talent of the future are subject to an un-natural selection: wealth, education and ethnicity. Just when we need diversity more than ever to progress as an economy, we are doing our utmost to turn off the supply.
The powers that be say that we must be strong academically. We need more engineers, more scientists... and we need them fast. We're in a race to compete with emerging economies. Driven by fear, China is coming and we need to be ready. But the solution? STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.
STEM is Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan's 2014 re-brand of her predecessor Michael Gove's hugely unpopular Ebacc certificate proposals - an educational policy which sidelined creative subjects for 'more' academic qualifications, but was successfully destroyed by a vast public uprising in 2012.
While the Ebacc certificate never came, huge damage has been done. The Warwick Commission's report cites a 50% fall in Design & Technology participation at GCSE, with Art, Design & Technology teachers in schools falling by 11% since 2010. Many heads were focussed on building a curriculum and facilities around the Ebacc proposals, only for them to completely disappear after Gove stepped down.
After a period of underinvestment in preparation for Ebacc, Art and Design now risks relegation to the status of a recreational subject, via the new STEM proposals. I recently searched Surrey for a secondary school that truly valued creativity for my own daughter. Both private and state, the answer was depressingly similar; "Oh yes, we do do ART here, but it's not a real degree is it?" one headmaster risked his life in telling me.
Just what kind of grey future are we designing? Where will we be in a generation's time? Creativity is the central spine of a successful economic future for the UK. The creative skillset should be thought of as fundamental to an explosion of progress in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. Creativity should partner each subject in bonding pairs, not as either/or enemies of academia. This approach is the very DNA of progress. How will our young people make leaps, think laterally and problem solve without creativity? Do we want to create a generation of 'cut and paste' practitioners? This is not about 'right-brain versus left-brain' children, this is about 'one brain' thinking.
STEM needs to evolve into STEAM fast. The Arts are fundamental to our nation's educational future, and its ability to fulfil its potential. But Nicky Morgan's vision of the UK's future is myopic, one must make way for the other. She recently stated, "...the arts and humanities were what you chose because they were useful for all kinds of jobs. Of course, we know now that couldn't be further from the truth".
I was once a young boy in a home broken by divorce. My mother struggled to bring up three children on state benefits, and I needed free school meals and uniform grants to get through school. I escaped via art and design, but I needed local authority grants to get to college. Back then, they were there. Creative industries charity D&AD bought me confidence when I won its New Blood student award in 1992, and grants funded my progress from degree to masters level. Somehow I made it, despite the odds. Today, I'm President of D&AD.
In 2015, the talent is still there, but sadly, the support has almost all gone. We must design a future where creative ability can be amplified by education, regardless of privilege.
To paraphrase 'Creativity Crisis' campaigner Seth Godin, "Stop stealing our dreams, [Ms Morgan]. What is school really for?"