Norwich university’s call to the government to protect arts in schools and avoid a crisis

Norwich University of the Arts. Picture: Owen Richards

Norwich University of the Arts. Picture: Owen Richards - Credit: Archant

Arts subjects should be put on the same footing as science and maths in schools to avoid a crisis in the field, a Norwich university has warned.

Professor John Last, vice-chancellor of Norwich University of the Arts.
Photo: Owen Richards

Professor John Last, vice-chancellor of Norwich University of the Arts. Photo: Owen Richards - Credit: Owen Richards

Norwich University of the Arts (NUA) says the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (Ebacc) in 2010 downgraded arts, media and design subjects, leading to lower pupil attainment, less funding and difficulty recruiting in the field.

The Ebacc measures how many pupils achieve a grade C or above in five core subjects - which do not include arts.

Having surveyed Norfolk schools on their arts teaching, NUA vice-chancellor professor John Last has, in a paper published today by the Higher Education Policy Institute, now called on the government to give 'parity of esteem' to the subjects.

He said: 'Our research found tremendous expertise and enthusiasm among art and design teachers in Norfolk schools for their subjects. But we also found evidence that the government's decision to omit creative subjects from the core of the Ebacc was having an impact on staff morale, recruitment and retention - and, worryingly, pupils' appetite to pursue the arts.'

Pupils' art work was exhibitied at Pakefield High School's Creatifest in July. Photo: Mick Howes.

Pupils' art work was exhibitied at Pakefield High School's Creatifest in July. Photo: Mick Howes. - Credit: Archant

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The paper puts the economic value of the arts at £84bn a year and says creative industries support 1.7m jobs - but professor Last said the current system risked 'fracturing the pipeline of future talent'.

It warns that pressure on schools to secure strong GCSEs saw less time dedicated to the arts, while the funding crisis affected subjects with pricey equipment, such as photography.

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NUA's survey also found that art in certain schools was taught by non-specialist teachers, with 40pc of respondents saying they had seen a decrease in art and design staffing.

Professor Last, who said NUA works closely with schools, said he hoped the drive to boost science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) over the last few years could be replicated for the arts.

Paintbrushes. Picture: Bill Smith

Paintbrushes. Picture: Bill Smith - Credit: EDP pics � 2004

The Department for Education said all schools must provide a 'broad and balanced' curriculum' and that analysis showed schools entering pupils into the EBacc had the same numbers studying arts subjects as other schools.

A spokesperson said: 'Alongside university, apprenticeships and technical education mean young people have more options than ever before to gain the knowledge and skills for a future in a wide range of careers – from design to TV production.'

What has changed - and why does it matter?

In NUA's survey, which saw responses received from 49 teachers, 72pc of art and design teachers reported a decline in attainment in their subjects, with more pupils lacking basic drawing skills.

Almost three quarters, 73pc, said they feared there would be a decline in 'creative stamina and resilience'. National figures from the Joint Council for Qualifications show there were 19,400 fewer design and technology candidates at GCSE in 2017 than in 2016.

The report said: 'We are told jobs within the creative industries are at less risk of automation, making them an attractive prospect for the future when new technology changes old rules and jobs. Research from the innovation foundation Nesta shows that companies that harness both arts and science outperform competitors in terms of sales, employment, productivity and innovation.

'You do not enrich the nation's cultural and social life by starving it of talent, nor is that the best way to feed the economy.'

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