It was a real pleasure to see the displays of our A Level Art and Photography students at their exhibition last night. It made me very grateful to work in a school where we are able to sustain and nurture such talent. This is certainly not the case across the country. Last week over 100 artists, including Tracey Emin, Jeremy Deller, Antony Gormley, Lubaina Himid, Anish Kapoor, Grayson Perry, Sam Taylor Johnson, Mark Wallinger and Rachel Whiteread, wrote to The Guardian to protest against the decline of art in schools.
They lamented the decline in study of creative subjects in state schools and the fact that entries to arts and creative subjects have fallen to their lowest level in a decade. This, they argued, means that young people are missing out on opportunities for personal development in the fields of self-expression, sociability, imagination and creativity and consequently one of our largest and most successful global industries is at risk; one worth £92 billion a year to the UK economy. That, they point out, is bigger than oil, gas, life sciences, automotive and aeronautics combined. This, they say, is all happening at a time when economic growth is of critical importance to the UK’s international position. The artists called on the government to reverse their decision to continue with the EBacc (from which arts subjects are omitted) as a measure of state school performance in the face of overwhelming evidence against this policy.
I wholeheartedly agree with the writers of The Guardian letter. Our school is in the centre of one of the most creative artistic hubs in the UK and the fabulous arts festival going on around us in Brighton this month is testament to that – but it’s a privilege we must not take for granted. In the words of the artists, if we care about social mobility, wellbeing and economic growth – and if we want our creative industries to continue to flourish – we need to rebalance our education system so that the arts are valued just as much as other subjects. A good education, one fit for the 21st century, must be broad and balanced.