Art and design is something we take for granted in our children’s school curriculums. We picture young children donning overalls for a spot of messy play, and we imagine classrooms of teenagers carefully sketching props and photographing their school playing fields for GCSE projects. In fact, that’s the very reason that suppliers like this one sell so many fantastic stationery products, arts and crafts supplies, and many other teaching aids, equipping teachers and students for creativity.
But, recently, studying art and design has been up for debate. In June, MPs discussed the exclusion of art subjects from the curriculum. While there’s no definitive answer as to whether or not art subjects will be removed, the fact that the Government is aiming to channel 90% of pupils through the EBacc (English Baccalaureate) curriculum indicates that uptake of art and design subjects will plummet given how narrow the choice of subjects are within the EBacc timetable.
So far, uptake of art and design has reduced by 6% since 2015, and design and technology has dropped by almost 10%. Other creative subjects such as media and film studies, or performance arts, have suffered from between a 9% to a 12% plummet in uptake.
So what’s the value of art and design in the school curriculum? And why should we be so concerned about these figures?
Well, for one thing, art and design subjects actually bring a great deal of value to our economy. According to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, creative industries generate a little over 5% of the UK’s economy. This might not sound like a lot, but that represented £81.4 billion in 2014, and that figure grew by a sizeable 10% between 2013 and 2014. And, of course, all of this money means that there are large number of people employed in the creative industry: a massive two million. With fewer students electing to take art and design at school, there’s a good chance that the economy will suffer for it.
Secondly, art and design is important from a cultural perspective. A strong art education can give young people an appreciation of why art matters, where it comes from, and where it fits in a wider social, historical and political context. As well as being an enjoyable and pleasurable subject to study, art gives students an understanding of the world, and themselves, by looking at what’s been expressed by others before them – as this writer argues.
And finally, art and design fosters creativity, imagination and confidence: skills that are transferable to every other subject on the school curriculum, and critically, are indispensable in a wide array of jobs. It’s a misnomer to believe that children (and adults) are either ‘scientific’ or ‘artistic’ (for instance). Art and design has a central role in the pursuit of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, encouraging innovation, analysis and evaluation – skills that are undoubtedly valuable in school, and well beyond into the workplace.