An open letter from the Creative Industries Federation (CIF) addressed to the UK education minister Gavin Williamson is calling on the government to address a crisis in creative education in English schools.

The letter, whose signatories include the artists Jeremy Deller, Bridget Riley, Gillian Wearing and Bob and Roberta Smith, says there has been an 8% drop in the number of students taking GCSEs in creative subjects since 2014/15.

Written by CIF chair Rick Haythornthwaite, the letter states: ‘We are deeply concerned by the falling numbers of young people studying creative subjects at school.

‘While Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland recognise the importance of creative education by ensuring it remains on the school curriculum, the English system continues to sideline it by excluding creative subjects from the EBacc.’

The letter adds that the Cultural Learning Alliance (CLA) ‘has estimated that the take up of arts courses alone at GCSE level has fallen by 35% since 2010, while the BPI [British Phonographic Industry] has highlighted the growing disparity between the provision of music in state and independent schools.

‘The National Education Union has reported a 20% drop in contact time in Drama, Art, Music, Design and Technology, and Dance for KS3 students.’

It continues: ‘The damaging impact of these reductions must not be underestimated.’

While stressing the importance of a creative education to the creative industries, the letter also argues that the value ‘extends well beyond those who go on to work directly in the creative industries’.

It cites research showing that ‘engagement with arts and culture corresponds with a dramatic drop in ex-prisoners reoffending’ as well as ‘improved nutrition and a dramatic increase in general wellbeing’.

The letter concludes by calling for either the ‘discontinuation of the EBacc, or its broadening to include creative subjects’ and urges the government to ‘incentivise a broad and balanced curriculum within schools’ that incorporates a ‘strong representation of creative subjects, creative and cultural engagement through the wider curriculum and opportunities for all young people to take part in creative activities’.

Other signatories to the letter include former chair of Arts Council England Sir Peter Bazalgette, Iwona Blazwick, OBE, director at Whitechapel Gallery, and Art Fund director Stephen Deuchar CBE.

The full letter can be read here

Art education in school. Photo: courtesy of Bow Arts

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