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Letters: EBacc plans are unfair on the arts


As teachers and researchers who work at Goldsmiths, University of London, we are deeply concerned about the Coalition Government's proposals to downgrade the creative arts and design in the secondary schools curriculum.

The EBacc proposals discriminate unfairly against students with ability in the visual and creative arts. Why should the thousands of students with talent in these areas be denied the opportunity to develop and gain confidence in their abilities at school? To do so is blatantly discriminatory, and will undermine the state school system's responsibility to promote equality of opportunity.

Much evidence suggests that students who study creative arts do better at more traditional academic subjects such as mathematics and computer science. Many of our competitors, including Singapore and China, where core academic subjects have had absolute pre-eminence in education, are now introducing the creative arts into their curricula. Is it wise to abandon a curriculum in which academic and creative subjects are integrated, just at the point when our competitors have decided to copy it?

The new EBacc will cause long-term economic harm to Britain. Marginalising the creative arts in the school curriculum will decimate the next generations of architects, designers, filmmakers, theatre-makers and composers. Creativity is good for the economy, and intelligent governments should not seek to stifle it.

Finally, quite apart from the economic arguments, design and the creative arts are simply good for Britain. They make us interesting and innovative and the envy of the world. Why would we cut ourselves off from that?

William Gaver

Professor of Design

Richard Noble

Head of the Department of Art

Michael Archer

Professor of Art

Dr Jorella Andrews

Head of Department of Visual Cultures

Vikki Bell

Professor of Sociology

Mark Bishop

Professor of Cognitive Computing

Lucia Boldrini

Professor of English and Comparative Literature

Roger Burrows

Professor of Sociology

Pat Caplan

Emeritus Professor of Anthropology

Josh Cohen

Professor of Modern Literary Theory

Sean Cubitt

Professor, Media & Communications

Sophie Day

Professor of Anthropology

Michael Dutton

Professor of Politics

Natalie Fenton

Professor of Media and Communications

Anna Furse

Professor and Head of Theatre and Performance Department

Robert Gordon

Professor of Theatre and Performance

Richard Grayson

Head of History & Professor of Twentieth Century History

Mark d’Inverno

Professor of Computing

Sarah Kember

Professor of New Technologies of Communication

Frederic Fol Leymarie

Professor of Computing

Russ McDonald

Professor of English Literature

David Morley

Professor of Media and Communications

Blake Morrison

Professor of Creative Writing

Stephen Nugent

Professor of Anthropology

Carrie Paechter

Professor of Education

Dr Tim Parnell

Head of Department of English & Comparative Literature

Geoffrey Pearson

Emeritus Professor of Criminology

Len Platt

Professor of Modern Literatures

Jane Prophet

Professor of Art and Interdisciplinary Computing

Sanjay Seth

Professor of Politics and Head of Department

Andrew Shoben

Professor of Public Art

Bev Skeggs

Professor of Sociology and Head of Department

Juliet Sprake

Head of Design Department

Goldsmiths, University of London

Michael Rosen is seemingly a lone voice in wanting to inspire children's imaginations (Education, 6 December). Solving riddles is one approach he suggests, but what should we make of the biggest current riddle in education, the EBacc?

How can a single examination board, appointed through a franchising system akin to the West Coast rail debacle and banned from tiering examinations to meet the needs of all children, possibly deliver a world-class education to all children in England? Ofqual and the Department for Education clearly can't provide the answers that the Secretary of State requires, and teachers simply hold their heads in their hands in disbelief.

Even the creative subjects are now regarded as second-class citizens in an educational system that threatens to undermine Britain's standing as the artistic powerhouse of the world. Even if Michael Gove could suddenly produce a magic delivery wand, the most we could look forward to are bland knowledge-based examinations that only suit a very small minority of children. Imagination, for its part, will be left in the dark book cupboard of UK educational history.

Neil Roskilly

Chief Executive Officer, The Independent Schools Association,

Saffron Walden, Essex

Boxing Day, and hunting row breaks out anew

It appears that Gavin Grant of the RSPCA is joining the political bandwagon, irrespective of the costs which could be so much better spent on the protection and care of other abandoned and needy animals ("If Cameron wants a vote on hunting, let him have it. He will lose", 26 December).

Even the RSPCA must recognise the need for foxes to controlled. Do they seriously believe that shooting, often leaving an injured fox to bleed slowly to death, poisoning and the suffering that entails, gassing, or the unspeakable cruelty of trapping is a better alternative?

The money they have spent on the Heythrop hunt case could be have been used to counter dog fighting, for instance, or to campaign more fully against long-distance transport of animals, and countless other desperate needs. There are many worthy animal charities who spend our money wisely, and would be grateful for some of the millions the RSPCA have: Battersea Dogs' Home, Compassion in World Farming, The Brooke, and WSPA, to mention some of the best.

Hilary Mills

Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire

It is unfortunate that the RSPCA had to pay a large sum of money to bring a successful prosecution against the Heythrop hunt (report, 18 December) but it is even more unfortunate that members of an organisation with which the Prime Minister has been associated think they are above the law.

If David Cameron really wants to detoxify the Tory party he should stop spending unnecessary time on the gay marriage issue and simply say in one sentence that he will abandon plans to repeal the Hunting Act and instead give the Crown Prosecution Service more resources to do a job which most taxpayers would wish it to do.

John Wainwright

Potters Bar, Hertfordshire

Boxing Day is one of the few days in the hunting calendar that you see the hunt, riders and hounds out on parade. Many of the riders are adorned with Christmas tinsel and their mounts are superbly groomed.

But what you are witnessing is the public face of a cruel and barbaric activity vested in our brutal feudal past. After the hunt has departed the town centre the huntsmen and associated terrier-men mounted on quad bikes will be in two-way communication, using the latest GPS and terrain mapping facilities available.

All these hounds, riders, terrier-men and followers after a lonely and scared fox which has probably been bolted from its den earlier that day. You can hardly call it hunting, or indeed a tradition.

Graham Forsyth

Chard, Somerset

Gun madness in the US

The attitudes of spokesmen for the National Rifle Association are beyond satire. No doubt, following the ambush of firefighters by a marksman in New York, their suggested remedy will be that all fire appliances should carry an armed guard. And to top it all, they want to send Piers Morgan back to us because for once in his life he said something sensible. All I can hope is that you could – and did – make it up.

David Coates

Richmond, North Yorkshire

I look forward to hearing the NRA try to explain how firefighters taking guns with live ammunition to a conflagration is a good idea.

Helen Gutteridge

Stockport, Greater Manchester

The only person who can counter the idiocy of the NRA, and its enormous funding of pro-gun propaganda, is a second-term president who has just been re-elected, so that he has four years to sort the problem out and does not have to face the electorate again. Barack Obama should take this chance.

Sam Boote


Immigration and industrial decline

For years British governments, both Labour and Conservative, have lied about Europe and the effects of migration. Owen Jones (17 December) considers those who wish Britain to govern itself and stop rehousing the world are bigots.

As an engineer I was well aware that a ready supply of cheap overseas labour meant that our factories were neither mechanised nor automated. So on quality, quantity and price, as labour costs increased due to union action, most became uncompetitive against overseas suppliers.

We have been left with a huge, unskilled and largely unemployable labour force. Adding to that by uncontrolled migration can only be described as the actions of those who wish to destroy Britain.

T C Bell

Penrith, Cumbria

A celibate's view on marriage

The Archbishop of Westminster uses his Christmas Eve sermon to attack gay marriage, implying that gay men and women cannot share in what the Archbishop terms the "creative love of God".

The dear old Archbishop, being celibate (we assume), has little first-hand experience of the love between two people, whether of the same or different sexes. And given the dire state of the world, from its millions of starving children to its tragic wars, often caused by differences in the deity people believe in, I would have thought that the Archbishop could have found something more relevant to deliver to his flock.

Professor Brian S Everitt

London SE19

Rather that peddling Old Testament homophobia, Archbishop Nichols would have shown himself more in touch with the problems of modern society had he chosen "greed" as his Christmas theme, reminding his flock, especially those who have contributed to the financial meltdown, of Jesus' teaching that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

In fairness to the Archbishop, this theme has been studiously avoided by clerics of all persuasions during the current crisis.

Andrew McLauchlin

Stratford upon Avon

Carbon credits hold out hope

Has Dr David Rhodes (letter, 12 December) not noticed the rapid international growth of Carbon Credits, which are used to pay for carbon footprints and generated by a variety of measures such as energy-saving investments and forest planting and preservation? The market for carbon credits, confused as it is, is expected to become the largest financial market in the world very soon and involves most of the big polluters including the US, China and EU.

While this development does not include the wide range of resources mentioned by Dr Rhodes, it does offer a model which could be applied to other sources.

Michael Webb

Newborough, Anglesey

Back the BBC

I wish the press, and especially this newspaper, would get off the BBC's back. You are playing into Murdoch's hands. Do you really want Fox News to replace the BBC? The Savile crisis has been overblown; many others were involved.

Malcolm Howard

Banstead, Surrey