Expert comment: The importance of a creative curriculum

Posted In Creative, Dance, Design & Technology, Drama, Music, Sixth Form

It was with sorrow that I read the article entitled “Decline in creative subjects at GCSE prompts fears that arts industry could be damaged” in The Independent, with figures showing a significant drop in pupils taking GCSEs in many creative subjects, with entries for GCSE design and technology in England falling by 32 per cent between 2012 and 2017.

My first reaction was one of sadness for the children who will miss out because GCSEs and A levels are no longer offered in these important subjects.  I also felt a great deal of sympathy for the management teams at schools that have had to take the difficult decision to cut programmes in the face of funding cuts, as these decisions must have been taken with great reluctance and frustration.

The reductions in funding that all maintained schools are experiencing are narrowing the choices of education available to our young children, which is a great shame.  The net result of this is that some subjects – dare I say it, the ones that are cheaper to deliver – are being retained at the expense of the more creative and practical elements of a broad curriculum.

Britain has, quite rightly, an excellent reputation for its creative and innovative educational curriculum. The narrowing of the curriculum due to financial constraints is fundamentally undermining this, and will undoubtedly damage the country’s future economic potential.

It is at times like this that I realise just how fortunate I am to be Headmaster of Bethany School. As an independent day and boarding school in West Kent for pupils aged 11-18, and with a Sixth Form of 110 pupils, we are able to offer 26 different A levels, including a wide range of creative arts provision including Art, Design & Technology, Drama, Music, Photography and Textiles.

Britain is at its best when at its most innovative; it is a sad reflection on modern priorities that creative, artistic and practical subjects are, in effect, being valued less than the traditional ‘academic’ ones. There should be no discrimination on ability; an individual with a talent in music is just as good as somebody who is good at sport, who in turn is on a par with a good artist and they are all should be treated similarly to a pupil with strengths in the more academic subjects. Equal opportunity for all talents should be embraced and the focus of any decent education system should be to allow each and every pupil to achieve their full potential, identifying and celebrating every talent along the way.

At Bethany School, our focus is on inspiring individual excellence. We all have our talents and, in order to maximise pupils’ achievement, we focus on allowing them to pursue an individual curriculum and providing them with individual support.

As the world becomes more complex, calls on government funding become more varied and it is increasingly difficult to balance the demands of competing areas of priority. However, the loss of funding for the creative arts is one which may do more harm than good, as our country seeks to develop an economy which will serve Britain’s interest as we negotiate the Brexit process. The world is becoming increasingly competitive and the last thing we should be doing is removing opportunities for talented and creative pupils to shine in their areas of strength.

Francie Healy