May 10, 2018

British Artists Sign Petition Condemning Lack of Creative Subjects in UK Secondary Education

LONDON, ENGLAND—More than one hundred prominent British artists, including many Turner Prize winners and nominees, have signed a petition condemning the government of the United Kingdom for the exclusion of arts subjects from the English baccalaureate, the general certificate for secondary education. The petition was first published in The Guardian.

The petition argues that removing arts from the EBacc, a decision made by former Conservative education secretary Michael Gove, restricts access to the arts for students in state schools, leaving the study of creative subjects to more privileged students in private secondary schools.

The Department for Education said in response that the percentage of students studying arts subjects has remained stable while secondary schools focus on core EBacc subjects like science, mathematics, and history, and that the government has invested nearly £500 million in music and arts education between 2016 and 2020. A report from the Education Policy Institute suggests otherwise, noting the emphasis on core subjects as responsible for declining participation in arts programs.

“There is compelling evidence that the study of creative subjects is in decline in state schools and that entries to arts and creative subjects have fallen to their lowest level in a decade. Young people are being deprived of opportunities for personal development in the fields of self-expression, sociability, imagination and creativity,” the petition states.

Artist Phyllida Barlow, a signatory to the petition and forty-three year art school teacher, told The Guardian, “Without doubt, such ill thought through polices and attitude to the arts is a tragedy. People, young and old, are being deprived of the opportunities to discover their talents and abilities as artists and innovators within disciplines across the board. This philistinism must stop for the sake of future generations and the survival of the planet.”

The petition and a list of signatories can be read in full here.

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