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A plea to the new PM: Don’t forget the Arts in education

By Mark Richards,

24 Jan 2020

The internet probably doesn’t need another article about Boris Johnson right now.

However, regardless of your opinion of him or your political persuasion, you have to admit that having a new Prime Minister in position has the potential for education to now be moved in a different direction.

It could be a clean start and a fresh start. Boris Johnson has made several bold pledges in his short time in office so far.

You might think his promises are genuine, blatant positioning for a general election – or proof that the ‘magic money tree’ does actually exist.

Once again though, it would appear that Johnson is prepared to look at the policies of previous administrations with fresh eyes and to change course, if he sees fit (or thinks there are votes to be won in it). Education won’t be top of the list.

Brexit and trade deals are likely to dominate for years to come.

However, education proved to be a bigger issue than many might have predicted in the last general election.

And in the two years since, it’s become an even bigger concern for the electorate. So, it’s worth adding another item to the ‘Boris to-do list’.

The new PM needs to be reminded not to forget creative subjects and the arts in education. The Arts have been damaged but not destroyed Theresa May’s government denied it (and Boris Johnson’s probably will too) but there is little doubt that arts education in schools has been seriously damaged since the Tory/Lib Dem coalition came to power in 2010. Arts subjects have borne the brunt of the government’s emphasis on academic subjects.

Add to this the crippling funding cuts and schools have been forced to narrow curriculum choice and, in some schools, arts and creative subjects have lost their place in school curriculums altogether. With a more limited choice available in schools and the take-up of arts subjects at GCSE decreasing, the knock-on effects are serious and extremely worrying.

Arts pathways post-16 are decreasing as a result.

Some sixth forms and colleges have had little choice but to reduce their arts offering. But have the arts have been damaged not destroyed.

Schools and colleges certainly have the will to give creative arts subjects their rightful place on the curriculum, but reality bites. Only a change in government policy can change the situation. A change in policy could avert problems for the future The irony is that the creative industries are one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK.

The pupils who took creative subjects at school yesterday have become the designers, art directors and photographers of today.

We need to think of tomorrow.

Creatives are now running their own businesses and employing staff.

But, if the talent pipeline runs dry, the creative sector will not continue to grow. If the Johnson government does nothing, a skills shortage in creative industries will definitely occur.

Not only that, of course, there is a long list of other benefits that young people are being denied because arts education has been devalued.


1- The Arts - at the heart of a great school

2- What is the true value of arts and cultural education?

3- Tory election failure offer students and teacher optimism

4- Shift in academies policy latest in years long development