Celebrities call for more creative education in schools

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Left-right: Adwoa Aboah, Sir Lenny Henry and Sam Taylor-Johnson signed the letter

Stars from the arts world have joined industry leaders in urging the UK government to make creative education accessible to all young people.

Sir Lenny Henry and model Adwoa Aboah have co-signed a letter championing the value of creative subjects.

“For the benefit of the whole of the UK, we urge government to incentivise a broad and balanced curriculum within schools,” the letter reads.

Photographer Rankin and director Sam Taylor-Johnson have also signed up.

The letter’s release coincides with this year’s A-level results, which showed further decreases in the number of students taking drama and music.

The letter from the Creative Industries Federation calls on the government to recognise the “critical” role of creative education for young people in the creative industries and the economy as a whole.

It cites evidence saying there has been an 8% drop in the number of students taking GCSEs in creative subjects since 2014/15.

It accuses England’s education system of “sidelining” creative subjects by excluding them from the English Baccalaureate.

Subjects cited in the letter, which has more than 150 signatories, include drama, art, music and dance.

The EBacc requires pupils to gain good GCSEs in two sciences, a language and either history or geography, as well as English and maths.

“We call for either the discontinuation of the EBacc, or its broadening to include creative subjects,” the letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said.

“It is also crucial that young people and those advising them have better access to high-quality advice about creative careers and how to pursue them.”

‘We need to wake up’

Taylor-Johnson, director of Fifty Shades of Grey and the forthcoming A Million Little Pieces, said that “our creative industries are booming”.

“Yet policy makers seem to be geared towards denying the next generation of creatives the opportunity to contribute to an enormous part of the UK’s economy,” she continued.

The country needs to “wake up to the risks of undervaluing the skills provided by artistic and creative subjects”, she added.

A Department for Education spokesperson said the proportion of young people taking at least one arts GCSE had fluctuated but remained “broadly stable” since 2010.

“We are clear that the EBacc should be studied alongside additional subjects, like the arts, that reflect pupils’ individual interests,” the spokesperson continued.

Entries in drama and music A-levels saw sharp decreases this year, according to figures from the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ).

There were 5,848 A-level entries for music and 10,207 for drama in 2019 – down from 6,251 and 11,239 on last year.

A decade ago, 10,425 students took music A-level, with 16,925 doing drama.

Michael Dugher, chief executive of lobby group UK Music, said the figures pointed to “a deepening crisis facing music in education”.

The Department for Education spokesperson said the government was “providing nearly £500 million of funding from 2016 to 2020 for a diverse portfolio of music and arts education programmes designed to improve arts provision.”

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