Brexit and education policy combine to create “talent crisis” in UK design

By Marcus Fairs/ Dezeen

The UK government’s education policy has come under attack from two different design bodies, with claims students are being “actively discouraged” from studying design.

The National Society for Education in Art and Design said art and design in schools was being eroded while the Creative Industries Federation described the failure to educate a new generation of creative as “economic suicide”.

“Curriculum time and provision for art and design is being significantly eroded,” said Lesley Butterworth, general secretary of the National Society for Education in Art and Design (NSEAD).

“The value given to art and design is under threat.” -Butterworth cited a recent report from NSEAD – a professional body that promotes design education – showing that the number of students studying art and design at GCSE level fell six per cent this year, from 194,637 to 183,085 – the biggest fall since records began.

“Higher ability children and young people are being actively discouraged from taking art and design at GCSE,” Butterworth said. Speaking at an arts education summit for politicians at Portcullis House, a government office building in London earlier this week, Butterworth blamed the controversial English Baccalaureate (EBacc) system for forcing schools to sideline design in favour of more traditional subjects.

“Primary and secondary teachers are being denied access to high-level, subject-specific professional development in art and design,” she said. “The wellbeing and workload of art and design educators has been eroded, morale is low and the future of a profession is being damaged.”

At the same meeting Sharon Hodgson MP, who chairs the Art, Craft and Design in Education All-Party Parliamentary Group, also attacked EBacc, saying there is “growing evidence that has shown that this school performance measure is having serious consequences on the uptake of arts subject in our schools”.

Hodgson added that the fall in the numbers of students studying art and design would create “a serious pipeline problem where we will struggle to find new artists, designers and creators to allow the arts and creative industries to flourish”. In her speech, Hodgson pointed out that the UK’s vote to leave the European Union presented a second threat to the design sector.

Citing Dezeen’s Brexit Design Manifesto, she said: “Arts and culture unite our country and highlight the best of British to the world. We cannot allow exiting the EU to damage these industries.”

The Brexit Design Manifesto called on the government to recognise the economic contribution of design – which is the fastest-growing part of the UK’s creative industries, generating over £71.7 billion in goods and services a year – and champion the subject in schools.

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