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Education: Art and Design

Volume 795: debated on Thursday 17 January 2019


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to encourage the teaching of art and design in schools.

My Lords, the Government want children to be taught a broad and balanced curriculum up to the age of 14. During this time, children should be exploring the widest possible range of subjects, including art and design. Ofsted is currently reviewing its inspection arrangements and launched a consultation yesterday on proposals for a new inspection framework. These proposals will place a strong emphasis on schools providing a broad and balanced curriculum for all their pupils.

My Lords, from the decline in arts teaching in primary schools, as described in a new Fabian Society report, to the EBacc’s exclusion of the arts, students are increasingly not receiving the balanced education that they deserve and is necessary for the future of our creative industries. Art and design is under the additional pressure of not attracting ITE bursaries, unlike other subjects which exceed their trainee targets. Will the Government address that unfairness?

My Lords, we clearly need to prioritise our bursaries budget so that we can incentivise applications in subjects where it is hardest to attract applicants. The vacancy rate, though, for art and design teachers as a percentage of teachers in post is lower than for music; indeed, over the last two years we have seen an increase in the number of applicants for both art and design and drama.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that GCSEs in design and technology have fallen by 30%, which is disastrous? I therefore welcome the support for university technical colleges because our 14,000 students do technical subjects at 16 to 18. Does he welcome the new Ofsted policy from Amanda Spielman, under which in the future Ofsted will concentrate less on exam results and more on a broad and balanced curriculum? This is good for art, music and design and technology.

I agree with my noble friend and section 26 of the consultation document addresses inspections directly. It will accelerate inspections where concerns are identified about the breadth and balance of the curriculum. Paragraph 155 says that inspectors will consider the extent to which the school’s curriculum sets out the knowledge and skills that pupils will gain at each stage. Ofsted will also consider the way that the curriculum selected by the school is taught and assessed, to support pupils to build their knowledge and apply it as skills.

My Lords, high-quality arts education as part of a broad curriculum has been shown not just to support our creative industries but to improve academic achievement and enable children to look at problems in different ways. In the light of Ofsted’s consultation on its new framework, which looks at quality, intent and impact in the curriculum, will the Minister say how this Government will ensure that there is no reduction in pupil funding in real terms? Good art education requires good teachers.

The right reverend Prelate is quite right that a broad and balanced education, which includes the arts, is crucial to prepare children for their future lives. I am sure that all noble Lords will join me in congratulating Harris Westminster Sixth Form today, where 37 Oxbridge offers have been announced. That is the most incredible performance when we consider that 13 of these children were on the pupil premium, two have been in care and 14 were from ethnic minorities. A major reason in their being able to get there was that they had a broad and balanced education on the way through.

My Lords, in his answer to the noble Earl, the Minister referred to vacancy rates in music and drama. Can he tell the House how many schools in the maintained sector no longer have a specialist music or drama teacher of their own? If he cannot tell me, perhaps he could write to me with that information.

I am happy to write to the noble Baroness on that specific subject, but I reassure her that, in primary schools, broadly the same amount of time is spent teaching arts as is spent teaching history and geography. Indeed, the number of pupils taking GCSE art and design was broadly the same last year as in 2009-10: 26% then compared to 27% last year.

My Lords, will the Minister consider that we are having to import people skilled in design and technology? Art and design is the gateway qualification, particularly at GCSE. Would it not be in the nation’s direct interest to make sure that we up the number of people taking examinations at this first step?

My Lords, we have seen a decline in the number taking design and technology specifically, but there has been a major restructuring in the way that exam is taught. We have replaced it with a new food preparation and nutrition GCSE, examined for the first time in 2018. D&T food technology accounted for nearly 30,000 entries in 2017, and a greater number of pupils took food preparation and nutrition and design and technology combined than took design and technology in 2017. So the numbers are not as bad as they look. We offer a bursary for teachers of design and technology of £12,000 for those with a 2.2 or higher, which has been increased from £9,000.

Is my noble friend encouraged by the continuing growth of partnership schemes between independent and maintained schools? Has he noted that there are now over 1,200 partnership projects in drama and music? Does he agree that independent schools can do more to make their skills and facilities available to their colleagues in the maintained sector?

I agree entirely with my noble friend. One of the things I have prioritised in my discussions with the independent sector is how it can improve and increase its support for the state education sector. Harris Westminster, which I referred to a moment ago, would acknowledge that it received a lot of help from Westminster School in the extraordinary outcomes it got—but there is always more to be done.

My Lords, I am pleased to hear from the Minister that Ofsted is to look at this, because arts subjects are compulsory in the national curriculum only at key stages 1 to 3. As the noble Earl said, referring to the Fabian Society report, even there they are in decline. Arts subjects in state schools are being squeezed out by the English baccalaureate, yet the artistic, creative and technical sectors of the economy are worth around £500 billion a year and need just such skills in our young people. Will the Minister accept that the English baccalaureate is the problem here, not the issues he raised previously? Will he commit to fundamentally changing that so that—as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said—the broader curriculum can be performed, allowing us to serve the future needs of our economy?

My Lords, I am afraid I do not accept for one moment the claims made by the noble Lord. Indeed, in 2009 150,000 pupils took art and design, while 141,000 did so in 2018—that with a cohort of 50,000 fewer pupils in the system for that phase. The noble Lord always seems to avoid the number of subjects we stripped out of the curriculum we inherited from the Labour Government. We took out over 3,000 useless subjects that children were being taught, including fish husbandry, practical office skills and nail technology services. We have brought back rigour to the education that children are learning. In 2009 only 365,000 pupils took science. Last year it was 499,000—that is 130,000 children getting a much better education.