The Creative Industries Federation has laid into Government plans to make the EBacc compulsory, demanding an audit of education and training in the UK.

Photo of students with results

The Creative Industries Federation (CIF) has launched a swingeing attack on Government education policy, warning that its ambitions for Britain’s young people cannot be achieved without “a radical shift in policy on school education and training”.

Accusing education policy of being “driven by the thinking of an academic elite,” it calls for the Government to drop plans to make 90% of GCSE students study the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) curriculum, which does not include arts subjects.

Mobility and diversity at risk

The CIF is the UK-wide membership body representing the arts, creative industries and cultural education. It believes that many schools are interpreting the EBacc as a signal from Government about what matters most and is best for young people.

Its latest report, ‘Social Mobility and the Skills Gap: Creative Education Agenda 2016’, warns that children from disadvantaged backgrounds and communities are likely to be worst affected by a focus on a traditional set of subjects to the exclusion of creative ones: “Far from encouraging the Prime Minister’s aims of social mobility, education policy is cutting the life chances of the country’s young people as well as narrowing the diversity of the future workforce.”

Training needs

The report accuses the education system of failing to provide enough young people with the right mix of skills for jobs in the creative economy. Brexit, it says, will make the skills shortage even worse, as “ready access to often highly-skilled Europeans, comprising 6.1% of the creative industries workforce, has long masked these issues.”

CIF is demanding an audit of the education and training the UK needs as part of the Government’s new industrial strategy. The EBacc, it says, is encouraging a dramatic decline in the take-up of creative subjects, and the Government’s new apprenticeship levy “risks undermining current training in the sector without tackling existing skills shortages”.

Economic madness

At the Conservative party conference last week, Prime Minister Theresa May said the Government would identify sectors of the economy – including the creative industries – that were of “strategic importance to our economy” and promised to “do everything we can to encourage, develop and support them”.

She also claimed that a new package of reforms would ensure “there’s not just a school place for every child, but a good school place for every child. A school place that suits the skills, interests and abilities of every single pupil.”

The CIF has rejected this assertion, saying there is a mismatch between the Government’s apparent embrace of the creative industries and desire for social mobility, and what it is doing in schools.

John Kampfner, CIF Chief Executive, has described the ongoing failure of education policy to produce enough young people with the technical and creative skills needed to fill the jobs in the creative economy as “economic madness”. He said: “To create genuine opportunities for all, we need to make sure we give every young person, and not just those at the best schools, the chance to study subjects that prepare them for those jobs.”

Sir John Sorrell, a designer, UK business ambassador and the CIF founder and chair, said: “If problems in education are not addressed and we fail to encourage our creative talent, we will lose our position as a world leader. This is a particular challenge now when Brexit will cut ready access to the wider European workforce.”

Liz Hill