The Education Secretary Nicky Morgan this week pledged to include the arts as a fundamental part of the UK’s education system.
In a conversation with the Creative Industries Federation, she insisted that the remarks she made last November, in which she appeared to disparage arts education, were taken out of context.
Asked by Sir John Sorrell, Chair of the Federation, if the standing given to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics should be extended to the arts, (in the jargon, putting the ‘A’ into STEM to make STEAM), the Education Secretary replied:
"Yes, I think I probably would. That would very much capture that it’s not an “either or”; you need a combination of skills in order to succeed in the modern work place.”
She however stopped short of following other politicians - notably Ed Miliband, Leader of the Opposition - in calling for a greater role for Ofsted in prioritising the provision of culture.
“I will always look, but the difficulty is that the more tweaks we do with the Ofsted handbook, the more I get pushed back from the professionals who ask why I don’t trust them as professionals to be giving our young people this broad and balanced curriculum. If I put one thing in then I have to put something else in.”
When asked by Sorrell to clarify her views on the importance of creative education in the curriculum, Morgan remarked:
“I think creativity is one of those skills we want all our young people to have. I want all young people to be making informed subject and career choices and not to feel that any options are shut off to them. So that goes back to making sure that all the young people are aware of where the different subjects can take them.”
The discussion with Morgan was the latest in a series of policy and political interventions by the Federation. On 23 February 2015, Miliband set out his creative industries, arts and education policy. During that speech, under the Federation umbrella at Battersea Arts Centre, he said:
“Under Labour, we will build the need for creative education into Ofsted inspections. And schools will have to provide high quality creative subjects and cultural opportunities to all their pupils if they want to get an “outstanding” Ofsted rating.
The Education Secretary had been expected to give a keynote address at a Federation event following her speech at the launch of the Your Life campaign, where she appeared to dismiss the importance of creative education. This was cancelled. Instead, she met with Sir John Sorrell and John Kampfner, CEO of the Federation.