Talking ’bout the next generation.

I’m not even going to try and pretend we’re talking about ‘my’ generation because forty-somethings like me aren’t the future of the creative and digital industries.

It’s not even the next generation that I’m worried about; it’s the generation(s) that are still in school who, according to a recent survey, won’t get the chance to be the art director and creative leads in the years to come.

The report in question that caught my eye was on the Design Week website, undertaken in May 2014 by the National Society for Art and Education in Design, and shows that “just 32% of teachers believe that art, craft and design is highly valued by senior managers or governors”.

“The conclusions of this survey are as unsurprising as they are unwelcome.” comments NSEAD General Secretary Lesley Butterworth in the Survey Report. She highlights fewer specialist teachers being trained in this area along with diminishing learning opportunities for pupils both within the school and the cultural sectors.

The report pulls out some interesting and challenging points:

  • The Government referring to arts subjects as “soft” subjects.
  • Creative industries not being promoted by careers advisors in schools.
  • Teachers’ professional development not being supported due to lack of training and expensive technologies.
  • Creative subjects often timetabled together, meaning having to choose one rather than several complimentary arts-based subjects.

What really stuck in the throat was on Page 4 – Section v; Are pupils encouraged in schools to take art-based options (at any key stage)?

“Particularly higher achieving students have their [arts] options restricted to maximise the uptake of EBacc* subjects; the lower ability students are encouraged to take art and design.”

Lower ability students?

Read into this what you will, but I’m a little bit miffed by the implication that my industry is being perpetuated by a steady stream of “lower ability students”. Why not go the whole hog and just call us what we are, merely cannon fodder and expendable in the face of our altogether more gifted classmates?

This is the same industry that accounts for 1.68 million jobs in the UK and generates over £8million an hour. That’s worth £71.4million to the UK economy every year (these are the Government’s figures, not my questionable maths – remember, I am of ‘lower ability’, right?).

The same Government figures also show that the “Gross Value Added of the Creative Industries increased by 9.4 per cent between 2011 and 2012, higher than for any of the other main UK industry sectors” and the “Creative Industries accounted for 1.68 million jobs in 2012, 5.6 per cent of the total number of jobs in the UK”.

I don’t recall the arts and creative industries being behind the mess that our dear banks got us into? Obviously we’re not clever enough to have dreamt that one up but, credit where it’s due, there were some very creative excuses being presented at the time…

So the kids aren’t getting the opportunities to study creative subjects. The teachers aren’t encouraged or supported to develop themselves or their pupils. The subjects are seen as being fit only for “lower ability students”, yet this is a sector that is growing year-on-year, positively flourishing and bringing a lot of benefits to the UK economy?

It begs the question: imagine what could be achieved if there was some proper investment in creative and arts-based subjects?

I’m fortunate in that I went to a school which was very much in favour of the arts, music, design and creativity in general. I had some, quite frankly, fantastic teachers (Geoff Holloway, Mike Yardley, Hugh Wright, Hilary Fell) who knew the true value of the subjects they taught and so many of their pupils have gone on to great things in the arts and creative sectors. I may not be in the same league as some, but I’m damn sure that myself and Plain Creative contribute its fair share into the collective pot along with all my other “lower ability” colleagues around the country.

Rant over. For now.



Image: Dunce by Wayne Wilkinson,

*The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) is a performance measure. It is not compulsory but Ofsted will take it into account when inspecting a school and it enables parents and pupils to see how their school is performing.