Gove’s changes threaten Britain’s greatest asset: our creativity

As part of his quest for greater academic rigour, the Education Secretary plans to remove all arts subjects except English from the top tier of his Ebacc

Share

Any attempt to improve standards in education is beguiling – at a superficial level. But Michael Gove has a knack for improving things backwards. His recent reinvention of A-levels seems doctrinaire, to put it politely, and follows hard on the heels of his plan to introduce a new Ebacc.

This plan for the Ebacc should be studied before it is applauded. And when you do study it, you’re likely to feel a frisson of deep anxiety. Because the Ebacc has a top tier of subjects, on which all the educational energy and emphasis will be placed. Meaning, of course, that any subject not in the top tier will quickly become a devalued currency. And the top tier, the subjects which will count for something in Gove-world, excludes any and every arts subject apart from English.

That doesn’t sound too dreadful, you may be thinking. But one of the great fallacies within Britain’s diminishing sense of identity is that we don’t make anything any more. It’s true that as a child I grew up with “Made in England” but as an adult I live with “Made in China”. And, of course, the traditions of shipbuilding on the Clyde and Tyne are in the past, as are the textile industries of Lancashire and Yorkshire. Yet we do still make things in Britain. We make different things for a different time – we make ideas. We are world leaders in creativity.

Front of the queue

The advertising business, once controlled globally by the US, is now dominated by WPP, a British company. Hard on its heels are younger British ad agencies, such as BBH, which have grown so fast that they now have offices in Singapore, New York, LA, Sao Paolo, Shanghai and Mumbai.

While it’s fashionable in London for the chatterati to be critical of the BBC, it’s seen the world over as a symbol of British excellence, and the World Service is universally admired. British architects, like Richard Rogers and Norman Foster, are designing buildings in just about every major international city. The music industry, like advertising, was once an American fiefdom but is now yet another creative arena where – thanks to an army of talent from the Beatles to Burial – we are a world force. In film and theatre, our actors, our writers, our directors are in demand not just here but everywhere.

Try telling James Dyson or Terence Conran that art and design don't matter

Gove clearly thinks that subjects such as art, design and media studies are fluffy, soft options. But media studies is important now simply because the media is important now, in a way that it wasn’t before. Try telling James Dyson or Terence Conran that art and design don’t matter.

Gove’s unquestioning respect for the traditional way of doing things would be fine if we were still living in the days of empire, bowler hats and Dixon of Dock Green. But we aren’t. In the new order, where globalisation and instant communication have taken over, creativity and ideas have huge value. And that value is not just cultural, but financial, too.

No accident

Look at the extraordinary success of Apple: a colossal business, grown from nowhere in a generation. The products it makes – the iPhone, the iPad, the MacBook – are made largely in Asia not America. But what makes Apple great is not the making of products, it’s the making of ideas, the ability to imagine new and better ways of doing things. Apple can see the value of creativity, even if Michael Gove can’t.

This kind of creativity doesn’t happen by accident, it happens by education: an education in arts subjects to be precise. Arts subjects are, by their very nature, an inspiration to lateral thought in a way that other subjects can never be. So if we are grudging about the teaching of the arts, we can expect to be rewarded by a slowdown in national creativity –our gift for making ideas.

Of course, Gove will comfort himself that the students of tomorrow will learn in their history lessons about our glorious past. But without the stimulus of education in the arts, they’ll never develop the creativity to build a glorious future. And while I’m sure Gove knows his Trollope, perhaps he needs to be reminded that, “The future is all we have; the past is lost to us.”

Roger Mavity is the CEO of Conran, and a writer and photographer

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Separate lives: Boston’s streets illustrate the divide between the town’s communities  

Migrants have far more to offer than hard work and wealth creation, yet too many exist in isolation from the rest of society

Emily Dugan
Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird has sold 40 million copies  

Go Set a Watchman: Harper Lee’s new novel is more than just a literary event

Joseph Charlton
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate