Tuesday 27 June 2017
Dear Priti Patel,
EBacc is toxic for the creative subjects in schools. This was a big mistake by Michael Gove and needs to be rectified. I was disappointed to read this article in the TES and see the facts of the impact of EBacc and the unhelpful comments made by Mrs Morgan when she was education secretary that has led to a reduction in the number of students taking the creative subjects for the second year running.
In the light of the future that we face where artificial intelligence and more immediately the retreat from the single market will change the shape of the job market in this country in ways that we don't know about yet. AI has already started changing the insurance business in Japan as computers do more to decide the impact of claims. Now more than ever before we need students who are resilient, flexible, creative and sociable in order to enter an uncertain job market. All schools today face great challenges to cope with the rapid pace of change and the huge amount of information that is created. How do governments decide what is important, how do exam boards decide what is relevant for all pupils to learn, and how do schools adapt? The current government’s approach seems to be more of a nostalgia approach to education and moving schools away from the very thing that students will require in the future. The reduction in numbers of students taking the creative subjects and Modern Languages must be reversed and as soon as possible. These subjects are incredibly valuable for not only broadening students perspective of the world but developing us as unique individuals. If we are to compete with robots we need to be different to computers, our USP is our humanity, our individuality and our ability to connect with people. As educators along with developing the core skills we should continue to nurture the soul, feed the imagination, the individuality, encourage empathy and teach students how to decide for themselves whether information is relevant and from a trustworthy source. Especially in the light of fake news and this new wave of populism.
As a teacher of Design and as a designer in my own right. I would appreciate it if you could air my frustrations in parliament to your colleagues in the education department. Can you try to get them to see the damage they are doing to students by reducing opportunity. These students will need to draw on these broader skills and experiences in their future. They could also be potential talent to enter the fastest growing sector in the UK's economy, the creative industries.
Designer and teacher of design
The patronising political response (below) I received was incredibly frustrating, and has left me feeling even more concerned. As an industry it is our duty to make more noise about this...
Dear Mr Earley,
4 July 2017 Thank you for your email dated the 27 June 2017 regarding the EBacc qualification and the creative industries.
I recognise how the creative industries play a vital role in upholding Britain’s cultural and economic health. Employing upwards of 1.7 million people and adding in the region of £77 billion to the UK economy, the creative industries have outpaced growth and job creation in many other industries. Only a few years ago, almost 9% of Britain’s service exports were from the creative industries, and according to the consultancy firm Portland Communications, the UK ranks number 1 in the world for foreign diplomacy through cultural influence, known as ‘soft power’.
The concern that the EBacc will drive pupils away from creative subjects at GCSE has been made vocally by the media, but proven to be unfounded. As you know, the EBacc covers a core set of 5 subject blocks - English, maths, science, humanities and languages - but this allows most pupils to choose a number of additional GCSE options.
Since the EBacc measure was introduced in 2010, total entries for arts GCSEs have actually increased over that period despite a small decline in year group population, and the percentage of pupils entered for at least 1 arts GCSE has also increased. While the EBacc rightly focuses on the core academic skills that employers and higher education institutions value, pupils will still study a broad curriculum - the EBacc doesn't exclude or undermine other subjects such as arts.
Every child should have access to the best opportunities in Britain, and this means having access to study the key subjects that provide the knowledge and skills young people need to succeed and leave school ready for life in modern Britain. I am very pleased that Ministers want to see 90 per cent of children who started secondary school this year study these core subjects to GCSE level as part of the EBacc.
The proportion of pupils in state-funded schools entering at least one GCSE in an arts subject has increased since the EBacc was first introduced, rising from 45.8 per cent in 2011 to 49.6 per cent in 2015. In addition, key skills from the core subjects are important for broader study - for example, history and maths underpin economics; and the study of English links to drama.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact me and I trust that this letter will reassure you of our commitment to drive up standards in education for every pupil. If I can be of any further assistance to you on this matter, or any other, please do not hesitate to contact me again.
Rt Hon Priti Patel Member of Parliament for Witham