by Dan Jarvis MP
One of the first things I learned when I became the Shadow Culture Minister was that 60% of the jobs that my three children (aged 9, 7 and 2 months) will go on to work in have not yet been invented.
Many of these jobs will be found in our creative industries which have grown rapidly over the past decade. Today the creative industries, the arts, tourism and the heritage sectors, employ millions of people and inspire thousands of schoolchildren.
So I believe that culture and creativity should be a fundamental bedrock of our education system and a source of inspiration that can keep our young people engaged in learning.
Labour believes that our children deserve an education system that is properly fit for purpose. If the system doesn’t mirror reality and our young people leave school ill-equipped to compete in a global market place, then we have failed them.
Of course, I believe English, Maths and Science must remain at the heart of the curriculum, but along with Stephen Twigg, I have serious concerns that Michael Gove’s education reforms will erode Britain’s long-term creative edge. In the last ten years, the creative economy was the second fastest growing economy in the UK behind the financial sector.
Part of the reason being that Labour invested in subjects such as Art, Drama, Design and Technology and music. The result was classrooms of schoolchildren equipped with creative skills sets able to master further education courses and jobs in the growing creative economy.
Additionally, Labour’s investment in creative subjects has had a dramatic effect on young people in and out of the classroom. Within the classroom, creative subjects and creative teaching, has led to a rise in levels of attainment, enhanced social and personal development and in the promotion of health and physical well-being, as well as a tool used to tackle truancy.
Art, music and drama lessons have also been used to help students better understand contentious social issues such as bullying, racism, homophobia and substance misuse. This in turn has had a significant difference on the lifestyles of young people outside of school, leading to better community cohesion, neighbourhood renewal, decreasing levels of crime and rising employment.
At a time when crime and youth unemployment is rising, creative education is one way to reach young people and better prepare them for the world of work.
Labour has much to be proud of from our time in Government, but there was still much more to do. Our investment in our classrooms has yielded a new generation where some of our brightest minds have returned to our schools in the form of teachers. We must capitalise on the creative ideas that new teachers are bringing to their classrooms and the opportunities that these bring for our young people.
I believe that we are at a critical juncture for creative education. There are key components that will determine whether or not teachers are able to keep producing students that will have the capabilities to lead the world in the creative economy.
The English Baccalaureate threatens to undermine the last thirteen years of investment in creative education. In an era where we have an Education Secretary that is so out of touch with reality, that he believes a child’s life chances are improved by downgrading a rigorous vocational course like engineering which was supported by major employers like Rolls Royce and JCB.
Let me be clear, I support moves to raise attainment levels in English and Maths but I do not support a downgrading of subjects such as Art, Design and Technology and Music, which are traditionally rigorous but have no value in the Ebacc.
Another important area for creative education is the future of music. In Darren Henley’s excellent review the very first recommendation states, “schools should provide children with a broad Music Education, which includes performing, composing, listening, reviewing and evaluating”. It is vital that music retains this level of importance in our education system. Especially when we consider how powerful and influential UK music has been internationally over the last half a century.
This doesn’t happen by accident. It is because of a thorough music education and a passion from enormously dedicated teachers delivering these subjects in and out of the classroom.
So there is work to do. Stephen Twigg has already outlined the Labour Party’s determination to nurture, not neglect, creative education and I will be supporting him in every way I can.
Dan Jarvis is Member of Parliament for Barnsley Central
and Shadow Minister for Culture (@DanJarvisMP)