How to ‘Level up’? Invest in teachers
This week I joined a debate held by the Westminster Forum Group exploring the role of arts and culture in levelling up regions and communities. There is so much excellent work and intelligent thinking around investment in local delivery infrastructure and joined-up policy making, and some amazing stories of the difference that the arts make to our local communities and national economy. But we will only achieve a compelling, long-term vision for arts and culture if we place education – at all phases and stages – at the very heart of any growth strategy.
The importance of arts education as the foundation of our creative economy success story can be seen in the concentration of skills and innovation of its highly skilled workforce – nearly three quarters of whom hold a qualification to degree level or higher compared to 44% of the wider workforce. If we really want to build the sustainable and diverse workforce that we need, to support local cultural economies, education is critical.
Investing in arts education is an investment in the creative workforce of the future: it is also about the intrinsic value to civic society of a well-educated, culturally engaged population. It bolsters health and wellbeing, strengthens communities and nurtures future audiences and discerning consumers.
And, as Sir Ken Robinson said, in a quote that we have chosen for our advocacy series this week:
'There is no system in the world or any school in the country that is better than its teachers. Teachers are the lifeblood of the success of schools.'
To all of us working in education, this is blindingly obvious! Frustratingly, less so for policy makers at the DfE (Department for Education) and elsewhere. But that is the work we do. Making the case for our profession. Because it is you, the art educators who truly drive the UK cultural industries success story and all the economic and social rewards that the arts can bring.