Creative education: new government funding is welcome - but does it go far enough?

Blog posts

19 Jun 2023

Joy Williams

Joy Williams, Senior Research Fellow

On June 13th the government announced plans to boost creative industries, launching the Creative industries sector vision. The announcement highlights the important role that creative industries play in the UK economy, as well as the importance of the skills and education pipeline needed to ensure that we have skilled people able to enter the sector.

I am pleased to see this announcement and the recognition of the importance of creative education to the sector. In 2022, IES conducted research on behalf of the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre and Arts Council England, looking at how creative education in secondary schools can meet the needs of the creative industries.

Our research found that a creative education can provide significant benefits for young people – technical skills for creative roles as well as more general employability skills and capabilities. At the time of the research, schools were in recovery-mode from the Covid-19 pandemic, which had impacted hard on the delivery of creative education, as access to specialist equipment became restricted due to health and safety measure and home schooling. What we found was great resilience and examples that included art teachers instructing their students on how to make paper, and use everyday items to create art.

As we set out in our report, sustained long term funding has the potential to secure long term partnerships and positive outcomes for young people. Therefore, the investment in music education is welcomed but I would like to see it go further: our case studies highlighted great examples of creative education in practice in secondary schools and the hard work that schools and creative professionals put in to ensure that young people get access to exciting projects that develop their creative thinking and creative capabilities. To give all young people access to experiences like these, we need to see more information shared about such projects and universal opportunities for young people to be able to access them.

Our survey of secondary school teachers found that art teachers were more likely than other subject teachers to already do great work in engaging with employers and businesses. Our case studies highlighted the range of practice and employer involvement from extra-curricular briefs in creative design, embedding a creative syllabus into the curriculum, Saturday clubs which serve young people from groups underrepresented in creative industries and creative games in STEM workshops.

I am passionate about the importance of good quality careers information advice and guidance – which is recognised as an objective within the government announcement. We need to ensure that schools have enough qualified staff to act in the roles, either internally or through contracting good quality provision. Careers advisers need up-to-date knowledge about the range of creative careers and potential pathways emanating from creative education that are not the spotlight-grabbing roles where only a few succeed, but the myriad of creative roles that together contribute to this important sector.

Over the past decade, there has been a reduction in the number of arts teachers (with some increases only seen in the past two years) and the number of hours that the arts are taught. The pandemic highlighted the precarity of many creative industry jobs as events and businesses shut down during various lockdowns. The announcement from the government clearly signals that it recognises the contribution that the creative sectors makes to our economy and the richness of our lives. We hope that this translates to action, particularly in education so that future generation can see that a creative education can lead to a rewarding creative career.

Subscribe to blog posts

Any views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Institute as a whole.