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Redesigning Schools

What Have the Arts or DT Ever Done for Us?

In Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” the the classic line, “What have the Romans ever done for us?”  Is responded to with a long list, “sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system, and public health”.

Today I had the joy of walking around a number of A-level Art, Photography and Graphics.  I’ll leave it to others to argue the economic and cultural benefits of the Arts; this was just about moments of awe, wonder and beauty.  Results have been extraordinarily high in these subjects and, whilst no expert, I sense this year will be no different.  As you walk around it isn’t the possibility of improved Progress 8 or A*-C grades that fills your mind but the unbelievable talent some young people, nurtured by their teachers and parents, are able to realise and express through different mediums.

It’s not been the greatest week for England in Europe or the Euros.  Sometimes you need your spirit lifted and whether it’s the Arts or the talents of young people you can’t fail to be impressed by what you see in these videos; all credit to the students, parents and staff at St. Mary’s Catholic Academy.  Sadly across England we are beginning to see the impact of the significant curriculum changes associated with the EBacc but also bigger, fatter GCSE Mathematics and schools, which previously ignored GCSE English Literature, moving to secure double weighting for English in Progress 8.  GCSE Design Technology numbers have already plummeted and in the years ahead the same will happen in Art, Drama and Music; it’s inevitable as the curriculum time available for options, outside the EBacc subjects, is now significantly reduced.

Some subjects are generally perceived as CV enhancing and rightly so; GCSE English and Mathematics are passports to so many careers.  After this there is a great debate to be had about what else young people must leave school with.  Different subjects are required for different jobs but education isn’t just about getting a career.  Like most people on Twitter seem to be, I’m writing a book, and will include a bit about the talk I gave to prospective parents every year for a decade.  It ended with me saying that we aimed “to not only provide an education to enable young people to earn a living but one that gave them a reason for living”.  It is important not only to think about what we may do in life but also the people we become as we do it.

There’s a famous quote by Winston Churchill that, when asked to cut arts funding in favour of the war effort, he replied: “Then what are we fighting for?”  The Arts & Design Technology matter, there a great part of a child’s education, they are different and provide a different perspective and different opportunities for pupils to shine.  They mustn’t be sacrificed on the altar of accountability and performance tables.



3 thoughts on “What Have the Arts or DT Ever Done for Us?

  1. It would be great to hear more head teachers stand up for Design and Technology. When art and dt are taught well they add a dimension to the curriculum that cannot be ignored on results day or on a tour with parents!

    Posted by Tony perry | June 29, 2016, 6:29 am
  2. Thank you for reinforcing this Stephen. Although a powerful econumic driver, the Arts are so much more than a career meal ticket. They allow us to express who we are, how we are, WHY we are. They provide great opportunities in the school curriculum for debate, discussion, questioning, SMSC, higher order thinking, contextualisation of ideas, experience of cultural diversity, spirituality, awe and wonder. They encourage children to find out who they are and to communicate this is ways which are different to writing and speaking. Not better, not worse. Different. The Arts celebrate what it is to be human and we must never, ever reduce their worth in our schools, because do so would be truly damaging to our children’s future.

    Posted by debhepplestone | July 3, 2016, 10:22 am

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