Ofsted 'should only give top grade to schools promoting creative subjects'

Schools should need to demonstrate excellence in creative and technical subjects to be rated 'outstanding', says report

John Roberts

Call for Ofsted to do more to promote creative subjects

Schools should only be judged "outstanding" by Ofsted if they can demonstrate excellence in creative and technical teaching, according to a new report.

The Edge Foundation says the inspectorate needs to ensure that creative and technical subjects are given the same value as academic subjects.

Ofsted has said it wants pupils to receive a broad and rich curriculum and will produce new criteria for what constitutes an "outstanding" school when it launches its consultation on a new inspection framework next year.

The Edge Foundation report, published today, says that the growth of both creative and Stem jobs is double the average across the economy but the number of children taking GCSEs in creative and technical subjects “has fallen dramatically”.

The foundation, which promotes practical and vocational learning, has criticised the impact of the EBacc in reducing the amount of time schools spend on design and technology, art, music or drama.

And it says these subjects are recognised as helping young people to develop the “interpersonal, cognitive and systems skills” which employers are demanding.

'Focus on creativity'

The report’s author, Edge’s director of policy and research Olly Newton, said: “What our reports consistently show is that government policy is completely out of step with what industry, employers and young people themselves want and need.

“More than half of employers (60 per cent) value broader skills such as problem-solving, which the exam factory mentality imposed on schools by the league table system does not encourage.

“Because this urgently needs to be addressed, we are supporting the Creative Industries Federation recommendation that Ofsted should only give the ‘outstanding’ grade to schools where creative and technical subjects are held in the same esteem as their academic counterparts and invested with the same value.

"We know the government recognises the skills shortage in the creative sector, but it seems unable or stubbornly unwilling to recognise that its education policy is actually cutting off the very talent pipeline this critical area of the economy needs.”

The report, the third in a series entitled Skills Shortages in the UK Economy, says:

  • There will be additional 119,500 creative jobs by 2024;
  • GCSE entries in creative subjects has fallen by 20 per cent (77,000) since 2010;
  • Research by the Creative Industries Federation found that 80 per cent of employers believe that skills shortages will increase in the next three to five years;
  • Two thirds (66 per cent) of employers are not confident there will be enough people available in the future with the necessary skills to fill their high-skilled jobs;
  • 75 per cent of employers say they value employability skills – communication skills, creativity, problem-solving, resilience – as much as qualifications;
  • The job vacancies that businesses have most difficulty filling are skilled trades including chefs, vehicle technicians and maintenance fitters.

An Ofsted spokesman said: "'Outstanding' schools are those in which the quality of teaching, learning and assessment is outstanding, where all other judgements are likely to be outstanding and where pupils thrive, thanks to the promotion of spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.

"We have often said that pupils deserve to benefit from a broad and rich curriculum, and that schools should not teach to the test.

"Our education inspection framework, which will go out to consultation in January, will focus on the substance of education when it takes effect in September 2019.

"We will propose new criteria for 'outstanding' as part of that consultation."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "We have reformed GCSEs to make sure that they are of a gold standard and are something parents, students, employers and universities can have trust in.

“The EBacc is part of a broad and balanced curriculum, which allows pupils time to continue to study subjects, like the arts and design, that reflect their individual interests but also provides for a strong academic foundation that keeps their options open for further study and a variety of careers beyond 16.

“Ofsted inspects schools on the basis of having a wide-ranging and varied curriculum, which support pupils’ outcomes and their personal development and welfare."

Earlier this year, schools minister Nick Gibb suggested that there was a link between schools that have significantly increased their EBacc entries and increased take up of arts subjects.

The schools standards minister made this claim during the researchED national conference in London in September.

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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