Leading UK Designers Call on Gove to Change Course

Henry Stewart's picture
Referring to the British man who designed the iPhone and the iPad, this web site has previously asked "Will Gove’s (ebacc) changes prevent the Jonathan Ive’s of the future succeeding?". Now Jonathan Ive, Apple's lead designer, has joined Stella McCartney, Sir Terence Conron and many of the UK's other leading designers in writing a letter to Michael Gove warning that he is "jeopardising Britain's future prosperity".

The ebacc that Michael Gove plans to introduce will require English, Maths, Science, a humanity and a language. No creative or design subjects are included. With most students taking two English and two Science exams the core ebacc subjects will take up 7 choices and other subjects are already being crowded out.

The Department for Education's own report, “The Effects of the English Baccalaureate" (covered here), revealed that just in the last year its effect had included:

247 schools have withdrawn Drama as a GCSE
183 schools have withdrawn Art
151 schools have withdrawn Design Technology

The letter to Michael Gove argues for creative subjects to be included in the ebacc to ensure our creative and design industries remain the envy of the world. One irony is that this move back to a more traditional curriculum is happening at just the time that the East Asian education systems, that Gove so admires, are moving to a more creative approach.

Full text of letter to Michael Gove

Dear Secretary of State

We write to you on behalf of the UK design industry. We believe that the omission of subjects such as Design & Technology and Art & Design from the English Baccalaureate will damage the future prosperity of our industry and the wider creative economy. It will fail to provide students with the skills that UK employers need and its impact on the UK’s economy will be catastrophic.

The UK creative industries are the envy of the world, we set the bar in excellence, innovation and entrepreneurship. The development of an English Baccalaureate affords the Government an opportunity to enhance one of the strongest areas of our economy. It is an opportunity to create a generation that will stand the best chance of improving our global competitiveness and contribute to our future economic growth. In its proposed form however, we believe the English Baccalaureate will starve our world leading creative sector of its future pioneers.

Collectively we champion good design which shapes society and improves the way people live. The UK’s design industry is the largest in Europe and one of the strongest globally – NESTA estimates £23bn is spent on design, while Imperial College put the figure at £33.5bn in 2011. Design Council research demonstrates that despite the recession the industry grew by 29 per cent between 2005 and 2010. Design is the lynchpin that connects our creative industries together and is fundamental to a broad range of disciplines from advertising to architecture, from furniture to fashion.

The innovation that fuels UK growth relies on knowledge, the skilled use of materials and the command of ideas. Design and the arts are vital components of an accessible and varied education system that can provide these skills.

The prospect of future generations growing up considering these subjects as unimportant is simply incomprehensible. We therefore urge you to rethink the Government’s proposal to exclude Design and the arts from the English Baccalaureate and to add a sixth pillar option for these subjects into the EBacc.

The letter is signed by over 130 of the UK's leading designers and design agencies and organisations. Find more details of the campaign at #IncludeDesign

The full list of signatories, including most of the UK's leading design agencies is here.
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David Hughes's picture
Thu, 06/12/2012 - 10:39

Indeed Henry! The issue of creativity and fostering the creative industries is a key idea in those nations that head the the PISA table of educational performance.

The issue of calling a mere assemblage of subjects which fit your outmoded notion of what is critical curriculum content is one of the worst aspects of current policy and, at best will produce students well suited for an office job in the Britain of the 1950s!

The creative industries in total contribute more to the GNP than construction, and it is time that the crative subjects and Humanities were given the same status as the STEM subjects.

The well educated person in the 21st century will not be defined by curriculum content but by competences, attitudes and behaviours which enable problem solving, collaboration and creativity to thrive.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Thu, 06/12/2012 - 11:05

The problem is with league tables driven by EBacc, not with EBacc, which is a reasonable core entitlement for a broad and balanced education. There is plenty of room for creative and technological subjects to be taught alongside. Their status is damaged not by the EBacc core but by the use it is put to to drive competition in our market system. Also let us not forget we are talking pre-16 here. Progression to creative studies post-16 should not require academic exam based courses pre-16. This is the fallacy of 'vocational equivalents'. ALL pupils need to be exposed to creative and technological experiences but they don't all need to do an academic qualification in it.

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