Posted in creativity, education, National Curriculum, Uncategorized

The end of the road for creativity?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would have seen, or at least heard, recent news stories focussed on changes to the curriculum. What some of you may not know is that academies are not required to offer any arts or creative subjects in order to be seen as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.

Legally, academies will have a lot more freedom to teach a range of different subjects and take different approaches to teaching, which in turn should encourage more creative, innovative lessons; however, it is clear from recent evidence that the reality is quite different. Despite these extra freedoms, schools are still restricted by their competitors, and therefore the more vocational and creative subjects, such as art or drama, may be avoided to the detriment of the pupils, as schools seek to satisfy parents and gain places on national league tables.

Juilliard_Chamber_Orchestra
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/51/Juilliard_Chamber_Orchestra.jpg

Only a matter of weeks ago it was reported that seven secondary schools in Yorkshire and Humber have restructured their curriculum which will lead to more than 88 job cuts as creative subjects are ditched in favour of a more academic focus.

Pupils wanting to study subjects such as music will have to opt in to after-school classes under the new system. The overhaul will require schools to prioritise academic subjects so the schools can perform better against the government’s new “progress 8” performance measure.[1]

The measure rates schools based on pupils’ performances in the five EBacc subjects – English, maths, science, history or geography and languages – plus their three highest non-EBacc grades.

Academies are cutting creative subjects in order to achieve better results on pupils’ performance. What must also be considered is the amount of control that multi-academy trusts (MATs) actually have over their schools. MATs will be opening and expanding in the new system and as these chains of schools are owned and led by governors and CEOs, it could mean that some schools lose the individual focus of the headteacher, who has first-hand knowledge of their school.

Take funding for example, you can be sure that each headteacher will be competing to get as much funding from their MAT leaders as possible, so you can see how some of this decision will rely on the ability of a school’s headteacher to argue the case.

Under new regulations, schools that are not considered Ofsted ‘outstanding’ will have to be sponsored by private companies, trusts or charities. This is to attract external, forward-thinking businesses who have no personal stake in the school.

Controversially, as headteachers will want as much funding as they can possibly get for their individual schools they will ensure that they can achieve ‘outstanding’ from Ofsted to guarantee funding from their MAT, which could lead to the demise of the more creative subjects, as this is no longer a requirement in order to achieve this status.

In order to combat the ‘slashes’ on creative subjects in school, children’s laureates have joined forces to campaign. Nine award-winning writers and illustrators are working together to bring more weight to issues that concern them.

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commons.wikimedia.org Riddell-Chris-litcologne

Chris Riddell, who is the ninth children’s laureate, reportedly held an initial meeting with all eight former children’s laureates, including Malorie Blackman, Michael Morpurgo and Quentin Blake, earlier this month.

Mr Riddell said: “The falling value of creativity is a big problem. I felt that since I was appointed last year, I have relied heavily on the credit of the people who have gone before me… but I wondered if I could now make it a collective thing. Could we all get together and tackle some of the issues?

“When you have someone like Jacqueline Wilson involved, or Michael Rosen, I feel we could get somewhere.”[2]

In protest of the exclusion of art, drama, music and other creative subjects from the EBacc, more than 100,000 people have signed a Parliamentary Petition. This has triggered a debate on the issue in Parliament, which is due to be held on 4 July.

Last year, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, assured the arts sector that there is nothing to fear from the EBacc, insisting she considered the teaching of arts in schools a “matter of social justice”.

She said: “A good cultural education is the birth-right of every child. Without an appreciation of the vast cultural contribution that our nation has made to the wider world simply it is not possible to understand what it means to be British.”[3]

This is the same Nicky Morgan who, back in 2014, said that choosing arts over STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects could “hold them back for the rest of their lives”.[4] The statistics suggest that this cataclysm-laden prophecy has been taken seriously by the current cohort, as statistics published by Ofqual reveal a dramatic decline in the number of pupils taking GCSEs in arts subjects over the past year with entrants for A-levels in arts subjects dropping by 4,300 pupils this Summer.[5]

In protest, Mr Riddell has said that: “[Creativity] does not have to be the basis of a career, but it leads to a lifelong enhancement. People more qualified than me can make the case for the value to the exchequer, but these are things that touch lots of people”.

Hopefully, the petition, alongside the campaign, will be able to bring back a love of arts to the nation, as well as highlighting to academies and pupils their importance to be a part of every school’s curriculum.

 

[1] Freddie Whittaker (2016) ‘Strike ballots in 7 schools after academy chain SPTA ditches creative subjects and cuts jobs’ <http://schoolsweek.co.uk/strike-ballots-in-7-schools-after-academy-chain-spta-ditches-creative-subjects-and-cuts-jobs/> [Accessed: 27 June 2016]

[2] Helen Ward (2016) ‘Children’s laureates join forces to campaign for creativity in schools’ <https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/childrens-laureates-join-forces-campaign-creativity-schools> [Accessed: 27 June 2016]

[3] The Daily Mail (2015) ‘Nicky Morgan insists teaching arts is ‘essential’’ <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-3163106/Nicky-Morgan-insists-teaching-arts-essential.html> [Accessed: 27 June 2016]

[4] Graeme Paton (2014) ‘Nicky Morgan: pupils ‘held back’ by overemphasis on arts’ <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/11221081/Nicky-Morgan-pupils-held-back-by-overemphasis-on-arts.html> [Accessed: 27 June 2016]

[5] Liz Hill (2016) ‘Exclusive: Arts in schools plummets, new figures show’ <http://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/news/exclusive-arts-schools-plummets-new-figures-show> [Accessed: 27 June 2016]

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