'Dear PM... Don't forget the creative subjects'

One college head of visual arts writes an open letter to Boris Johnson, urging him to back creative arts education

GCSE results 2019: Entries for art and design subjects increased by 9.5 per cent this year

Dear prime minister,

Welcome to No 10. I know you have so much to think about, Brexit, trade deals and a possible general election, but please remember that there is so much more to your job than that.

Education seems to be lost in all the confusion and delays over the EU withdrawal. And even within education, the plight of creative subjects falls ever lower on the to-do list. But all the time, my team and I are plugging away, pushing our students and keeping alive a vibrant creative department.


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Arts pathways

We are a small college set in rural South Shropshire. Despite a decrease in the local demographic and a decrease in students coming to us having taken art GCSE, we have been able to keep three art pathways open; fine art, graphic communication and photography, with numbers mostly holding steady. We are a successful department and are supported by management who have no plans to reduce our offer.

However, it is clear that our feeder school art teachers are finding it harder to recruit to the GCSE, and this is having an impact on our numbers.

And yet our alumni are designers, photographers, lecturers, art directors, filmmakers, creatives running their own business and so much more. We are helping to create the workers and contributors for the creative industries of the future. So why then do we still need to keep fighting for our place on the curriculum? Why do we still need to prove its value and work hard to change the focus of so many in power?

The value of creative education

If it is "proof" of the value of creative education that you want, then please turn to the Cultural Learning Alliance and its two reports, The Value of Creative Learning and Key Research Findings, The Case for Cultural Learning. Please read them. Get informed and then get acting to support cultural learning in all its forms.  

But the factual case alone it is not enough to shift opinion. If it was, I would not have to write to you. It is the responsibility of those in public positions to speak positively and supportively with this information, to make it known that creative education has a place and a place that will be supported and championed.

At the centre of building respect for creative education has to be an army of exceptional art teachers. While many art teachers are just that, a support system, free of charge, to aid art teachers would be of tremendous benefit. There is increasingly little relevant training, and budgets for training days are growing smaller each year. Additionally, a mentor system could be put in place built on industry models, such as that used by the British Fashion Council. I have no doubt much could be learned from it and transposed to an education setting.

Let’s work with bodies focused on highlighting the value and opportunities within an industry to increase access. Let’s work hard to ensure that the creative world is open to all and not, as described by Sarah Mower, “often seen as a world where no child from the suburbs and the housing estates could ever dream of getting a foothold in". So many see the arts as for "others" and not them. This must stop.  An open welcome must be extended to all. 

We cannot give people a reason to believe that what we do is anything other than vital to a balanced society and economy and you, as head of our government, should be leading that charge. So please, come and join us, help us to prepare our creatives of tomorrow.

Hannah Day is head of visual arts, media and film at Ludlow College

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