Following the State Opening of Parliament and the Queen's Speech of 21 June 2017, on Thursday 29 June The House of Lords debated the Government's proposed policies on education and culture. The Lords addressed, amongst other issues, the Government’s long overdue Ebacc consultation, equality of provision and entitlement, the impact of Brexit and funding policies on the arts and the curriculum.
Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury (LD) (Column 596) asked the Government to publish the Ebacc consultation:
‘Preliminary 2017 figures from Ofqual confirm that the number of young people who take creative-related subjects is declining. I will not go into the statistics, because the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, already has. Can the Minister say when we will get the Government’s response to the EBacc consultation, which is long overdue? I hope that the promise in the gracious Speech that all schools are fairly funded will mean fair access to funds for creative and cultural activities.'
Lord Clement-Jones (LD) (Column 603) focused on the impact of Brexit on the creative industries:
‘My Lords, I am afraid that there is precious little to welcome in the Queen’s Speech for our arts and culture and our creative industries. The Creative Industries Federation, in its Brexit report published last autumn, reinforced by its recent report, Our Red Lines on Brexit, rightly stated:
“Talent and skills are fundamental to the UK’s creative success. It is vital we continue to cultivate our own talent as well as to attract the best and brightest from around the world.”’
Lord Aberdare (CB) (Column 603) focused skills and the creative industries and the declining uptake in creative subjects in schools, particularly in disadvantaged areas:
‘It is high time for the disparity of esteem between academic and technical education to be finally laid to rest, so that teachers, parents and young people themselves recognise that technical education routes offer opportunities at least as rewarding and valuable as academic ones. That might also help to address the education divide.
‘One of the areas in which the UK has the potential to continue to excel is in the creative industries, which represent £87 billion of gross value added. It is one of the UK’s fastest growing sectors and accounts for almost 10% of our service exports. I share the view expressed by a number of noble Lords… that the exclusion of creative subjects from the Government’s plans for the EBacc is perverse… these subjects are included as a matter of course in the most successful schools, particularly in the independent sector, and businesses are crying out for skills in just these areas. There seems to be a real risk of pupils in disadvantaged areas missing out on arts and creative subjects, thereby reinforcing the concerns about the potential educational divide.’
The Earl of Clancarty (CB) (Column 638) asked why the DCMS has been restructured, noting the separation between arts and creative industries, and, that placing the arts alongside heritage and tourism does not recognise the arts as contemporary practice. The speech also addresses reductions to per-pupil funding and the possible impact of this reduction on arts provision in schools:
'It would be very helpful to have from the Minister an explanation of the thinking behind DCMS reorganisation. I have always preferred the umbrella term “arts and creative industries” because I have never felt entirely comfortable with one aspect being defined as part of the other. However, the apparent separation between the two is not quite realistic either: there is much crossover between them, and while digital is very important for the creative industries, it does not define them. The Government should not lose sight of the immense importance of the creative industries to this country, not least to its economy. I hope, too, that placing the arts alongside heritage and tourism is not a move away from recognition of the arts as a significant contemporary practice.
'If education does not receive adequate funding, which must mean an increase in per-pupil funding, then arts education will continue to receive a double whammy, hit first by, among other things, an increasing shortage of specialist teachers and a lack of resources and secondly, by the continuing effect of the EBacc, which the Government are clearly ploughing on with regardless of the mounting evidence of its devastating effect on school education. In particular, we have the Ofqual figures published just this month showing for the last year alone a decline of more than 8% in take-up of arts GCSEs and more than 10% in design and technology, whose importance in the curriculum the noble Lord, Lord Storey, emphasised earlier. The Government must come to their senses and remove this destructive measure so that children have a rounded education that contains the widest range of opportunities.’