‘Shortsighted’ approach snubs economic value of arts subjects
A “SHORTSIGHTED” approach to arts education will impact on young people’s futures, independent school leaders have warned, in the wake of league table pressures and a squeezing of the curriculum.
Many state schools are forced to prioritise core subjects to defend their league table status, argues principal of The Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL) Sue Woodroofe, while concerns over education funding raised repeatedly by headteachers within the sector should not be ignored.
“We are at risk, just as we are with the teaching of modern languages, that largely creative subjects are going to become a preserve of independent schools,” she said.
“These are rights that all children should have – not just the privileged few.”
Ms Woodroofe, principal of one of the country’s largest independent schools, says a more flexible approach to education is needed to appreciate the benefits of a varied curriculum.
Citing a decline in uptake of certain subjects nationwide, such as design technology and music, Ms Woodroofe said the introduction of the EBacc has seen many schools forced to focus on timetabling core subjects in which they will be ranked.
“The Government line is that they have made music compulsory to the age of 14,” she said. “But there’s no representation of a creative subject in the EBacc at all. That’s got to be massive. If schools are worried about the league tables, of course they are going to make judgments.
“As soon as we have league tables, we are setting up a hierarchy and saying that some subjects are more important than others. My worry is that is shortsighted. It’s not about looking at what the economy needs now, but what it will need in the future – we are going to need creative thinkers. The tragedy is, I suspect, all headteachers want to ensure their children have a broad and balanced curriculum. We need the scaffolding in place to make this possible.”
Arts subjects inspire confidence and independent thought, she adds, both critical when creative industries are the fastest growing part of the economy.
“No child should feel that their passion, their niche, is cut off from them,” she said. “We all want the very best range of options for all children. That’s what they deserve.”
Warned creative subjects were becoming preserve of independent schools.