An open letter to the Secretary of State for Education

As members of the Creative Industries Federation, the MIA fully supports this letter that has just been sent to the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson MP. The letter urges the government to recognise the personal, social and economical value creative education provides for individuals, for the Creative Industries and for the economy at large.

It is essential that the government are reminded of the scale and growth of our sector. It is equally important that it it reminded of the scale of concern we all share for the volumes of young people who are not getting a school education in music and the other creative subjects…

The Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP
Department for Education
20 Great Smith Street

Dear Secretary of State,

Access to high-quality creative education for all is critical for our young people, for the success of our £101.5bn creative industries, and for the health of the economy at large.

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(1). There has been an 8% drop in the number of students taking GCSEs in creative subjects since 2014/15. The Cultural Learning Alliance (CLA) has estimated that the take up of arts courses alone at GCSE level has fallen by 35% since 2010(2), while the BPI has highlighted the growing disparity between the provision of music in state and independent schools(3). The National Education Union has reported a 20% drop in contact time in Drama, Art, Music, Design and Technology, and Dance for KS3 students. The damaging impact of these reductions must not be underestimated.

Creative education is critical for the individual 
Studying creative subjects positively impacts young people’s wellbeing, their development, and future opportunities(4). Research from the CLA has shown that children who study art are more employable once they have finished studying, and more likely to keep a job once employed(5 6). Taking arts subjects can improve a young person’s cognitive abilities by up to 17%, and even means that young people see improved attainment in English and Maths(7).

Access to creative education is particularly important for children from low-income backgrounds who may only have opportunities to engage with arts and culture through their schools. Studies show that children who do not have access to arts and culture are at a disadvantage both economically and educationally in comparison with those that do(8). A system which means that only more privileged young people are able to access arts and culture does a disservice both to those young people who suffer as a result, and to a society that believes in the importance of social mobility and equality of opportunity.

Creative education is critical for the creative industries
Ensuring young people have access to creative education is vital if the country is to maintain a resilient talent pipeline for the creative industries, the fastest-growing sector in the UK economy.

The creative industries are growing at twice the rate of the UK economy, and employ more than 2 million people. Jobs in the sector are growing at three times the UK average, and analysis by Nesta outlines that with proper investment an additional one million jobs could be created by 2030. But it is estimated that there are more than 77,000 roles that are unfilled or which require additional skills. An education system lacking creative subjects won’t equip young people to enter into self-employed careers (a third of the sector’s workforce) yet the future success of the sector relies on this generation to be the next wave of creators, innovators and entrepreneurs.

Put simply, devaluing creative education for young people will threaten the pipeline of exceptional creative talent which has secured the UK’s creative industries as world-leading.

Creative education is critical for the whole economy
The value of creative education, at all levels and throughout people’s lives, extends well beyond those who go on to work directly in the creative industries. For example, engagement with arts and culture corresponds with a dramatic drop in ex-prisoners reoffending(9), improved nutrition and a dramatic increase in general wellbeing(10), as well as many other benefits.

Higher education institutions understand the value creative education brings to higher levels of study, regardless of whether the learner continues to study a creative subject or otherwise. For example, The Russell Group dropped its list of “facilitating subjects”(11) and recommends that universities “may prefer applicants to have studied a variety of subjects, [including] art, English, music for STEM degrees”(12).

Studying creative subjects develops highly transferable skills that are essential for careers across the economy, such as creative thinking, problem-solving, generating imaginative and innovative ideas, persuasive communication and more. Analysis by Nesta has shown that 87% of creative roles are resistant to automation and a report by the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre shows that ‘creativity’ (as a skill) is consistently the most significant predictor for an occupation’s growth(13 14). This means that a creative workforce is one that is resilient, fit for the future, and non-negotiable for the health of our economy.

For the benefit of the whole of the UK, we urge government to incentivise a broad and balanced curriculum within schools. This should incorporate 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. We call for either the discontinuation of the EBacc, or its broadening to include creative subjects, and for government to ensure that schools are well resourced to deliver these subjects. 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. Programmes like the industry-led, government-backed Creative Careers Programme, which will reach 2 million young people with better careers advice, remain vital.

Yours sincerely,

Rick Haythornthwaite, Chair, Creative Industries Federation on behalf of this list of signatories.

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