Tate pictures new generation of young British artists

The charity backs bid for free school focusing on creative arts

Richard Vaughan

It is more usually concerned with the works of artists such as Picasso, Turner or Lucian Freud, but the Tate, one of Britain's biggest art institutions, has now turned its attention to education and thrown its weight behind a free school bid.

The charity has lent its support to the proposed Plymouth School of Creative Arts, which it believes could be of "potentially national significance" if it is given the go-ahead by the Department for Education.

The Tate's intervention comes amid mounting concerns that art and other creative subjects are being marginalised within schools after the introduction of the English Baccalaureate.

The team supporting the free school bid was invited to Westminster last month for an interview with DfE officials about the proposed school, which they hope will open in September 2013. Their bid was strongly endorsed by Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota, who wrote a letter to education secretary Michael Gove heaping praise on the planned school.

"(The Tate) feels strongly that there is not just room within the education landscape for such a school, but a need and an appetite for a school that gives opportunity for children and young people who have a wider range of capabilities than may be demonstrated through their current educational experience," Sir Nicholas wrote.

"The creative industries continue to be one of the few growing industries in this country and such a school will help nurture skills and aptitudes that may be declining elsewhere, enabling a new young workforce to be able to thrive in the area."

The bid was put forward by the Plymouth College of Art and offers provision for children aged 4-16. It is hoped that the links to the further and higher education college will enable pupils to study from reception right up to a postgraduate or master's degree level.

The man leading the application is Professor Andrew Brewerton, principal of Plymouth College of Art. He said the school would provide a more rounded education to its pupils, introducing a curriculum that reinstates art and design - subjects, he said, that were being undervalued in schools.

"Creativity and the creative arts subjects have been replaced over many years by short-term numeracy and literacy targets," Professor Brewerton said. "We don't believe the curriculum, particularly with the introduction of the EBac, is as broad and balanced as it should be."

The Plymouth School of Creative Arts intends to provide a curriculum that allows its pupils to study all the core subjects - including each of the sciences, history, geography and modern languages - but in a creative way.

"We believe creativity should be introduced across the piece, not just in bite-sized chunks. We want to use creative intelligence, not just rote learning," Professor Brewerton added.

The free school bid is also supported by the National Society for Education in Art and Design. General secretary Lesley Butterworth said that while her organisation is generally cautious about the free school movement, she felt the new school could be beneficial provided it accommodates pupils who are not artistic.

"Having major players like Tate and the Plymouth College of Art can only be a good thing," Ms Butterworth said. "But it is important to have a broad and balanced curriculum, particularly at a time when the arts are highly challenged by current government policy."

Celebrity patrons

The Tate is just one of several well-known institutions to jump on board the coalition's free school policy.

Football clubs such as Everton and Bradford City are expected to open free schools this September, while Tottenham Hotspur has been linked with a proposal for another.

Leicester Tigers rugby club is also backing a group in the early stages of opening a sports college for students aged 16-18.

And, steadily becoming an institution in her own right, Katie Price, also known as glamour model Jordan, announced last week that she is helping a group of parents to create a special free school in Kent.

But even support from one half of television comedy duo the Chuckle Brothers was not enough to win approval for a proposed free school in Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

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Richard Vaughan

Richard has been writing about politics, policy and technology in education for nearly five years after joining TES in 2008. He joined TES from the building press having been a reporter and then later news editor at the Architects’ Journal. Before then he studied at Cardiff University’s school of journalism. Richard can be found tweeting at @richardvaughan1

Find me on Twitter @RichardVaughan1

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