This week the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced the creative industries are now worth over £71billion to the UK’s economy per year. That’s a staggering £8million per hour! Which is fantastic, of course, and is rightly being celebrated. Growth of almost 10% was achieved by the creative industries in 2012, outperforming all other sectors of UK industry. Employment in the creative industries increased by 8.6 per cent between 2011 and 2012, a much higher rate than for the UK Economy as a whole (0.7%). The government’s new Create UK scheme aims to double the value of exports from the creative industries to £31bn by 2020.
Yet at the same time the National Society for Education in Art and Design (NSEAD) brought out their report which said, among other conclusions, that art subjects in schools are undervalued, talented pupils are being discouraged from taking art subjects in favour of more academic subjects, less able pupils are being pushed towards art subjects, opportunities for pupils to meet creative practitioners or engage with original art are being reduced, and CPD for art staff is minimal.
I can’t be the only one to see a staggering disconnect here. How are we ever supposed to significantly increase growth in the creative industries if we discourage future practitioners from taking the subjects in the first place? It’s ridiculous to despise creativity in school and then champion it in the workplace.
For me, the most depressing part of all of this is that nothing seems to have changed in the thirty years since I was at school. Have we learned nothing in that time? Talented pupils being discouraged? Check. The less able being sent to (disrupt) the art class instead of the academic subjects? Check. No opportunities to meet creative practitioners? Check.
Can you imagine a situation where we actively discouraged keen scientists from taking science classes? Or “You’re good at maths, but it’s not a suitable subject. You’d better take history instead.” It would be risible. Yet that situation happens over and over again to teenagers who want to study art. When choosing O Level options, I had to have a special meeting with the head teacher in order to be allowed to take art. No student should have to plead or fight to be able to take their best subject.
How many working hours have been spent by creative people finding their way back to the careers they always wanted? What if those hours were spent doing the job they were passionate about? Couldn’t we have achieved more than £71 billion if that were the case?
I HAVE A DREAM. How about we actively encourage the pupils who are talented at art subjects? We give them opportunities to develop their skills and expand their horizons. We bring creative practitioners into schools, so teachers and pupils can be inspired by the varieties and possibilities of creative careers. We stop making adequate geographers, mathematicians, lawyers, nurses, mechanics, caterers, administrators etc. out of people who could have been outstanding in the creative industries.
Talented pupils have, for decades, been discouraged from studying art in schools. If the result is growth in the creative industries 6x faster than the wider UK economy, what heights can we reach when talent is nurtured, educated and encouraged from the outset? We must stop this culture of negativity around art education, and start building a workforce that is talented, trained and engaged. Then we can really hit the heights.
£71 billion? Not nearly enough.