Towards a Twenty-First Century Education System: Edge Future Learning

The government’s focus on the narrow EBacc to the detriment of the study of arts and creative subjects in schools, is not only impacting on the creative industries, but on scientific study as well, the Edge Foundation will say at an event hosted by the Museum of Childhood in London on 30 October 2018.

In its latest policy report, Towards a Twenty-First Century Education System, the education charity calls for dramatic changes to the current national curriculum and argues that creativity should be at the heart of all learning. 

Director of the V&A, Tristram Hunt, who is delivering a keynote address at the event, says:

‘Creativity is not just for artists. Subjects like Design and Technology, music, art and drama are vitally important for children to develop imagination and resourcefulness, resilience, problem-solving, team-working and technical skills. These are the skills which will enable young people to navigate the changing workplace of the future and stay ahead of the robots, not exam grades. These meta-skills are critical in all sectors, not just the creative industries.’

Clinician and educationalist Professor Roger Kneebone, Professor of Surgical Education at Imperial College, London, says that the impact of creative subjects being squeezed out of the core curriculum is evident amongst medical and science students.

‘It is a concern of mine and my scientific colleagues that whereas in the past you could make the assumption that students would leave school able to do certain practical things – cutting things out, making things – that is no longer the case. We have students who have very high exam grades, but lack tactile general knowledge so they struggle even to perform chemistry experiments. An obvious example is of a surgeon needing some dexterity and skill in sewing or stitching. It can be traced back to the sweeping out of creative subjects from the curriculum; it is important and an increasingly urgent issue.’

Professor Kneebone is taking part in a panel discussion, chaired by Tristram Hunt, which includes co-founder of cult jewellery brand Tatty Devine, Rosie Wolfenden, head of the Plymouth School of Creative of Arts, Dave Strudwick, and Chief Executive of the Edge Foundation, Alice Barnard, who comments:

‘The government pays lip service by saying creative subjects are important, but its policies demonstrate otherwise. Creative subjects count for less under Progress 8 measures. The relentless focus on performance tables makes teachers feel compelled to ‘teach to the test’; it is driving good teachers out of the profession and limiting choices and opportunities for young people. It is not just the creative industries expressing concern about having a talent pipeline for the future, but employers across all sectors and industries.’

The EBacc effectively makes a minimum of seven GCSEs compulsory for pupils in England, but does not include any arts, design or technology subjects. The government wants 90 per cent of students to be taking the EBacc by 2025.

The Edge Foundation report highlights how the fourth industrial revolution and Brexit are causing the skills gap to widen. The current narrow knowledge-focused academic curriculum using rote-learning to prepare young people to pass exams, is not fit for purpose to tackle the challenges of a twenty-first century economy argues the charity. The report also shines a spotlight on schools, colleges and organisations which are taking a more holistic and forward-thinking approach to learning.

The Plymouth School of Creative Arts (PSCA) has eschewed the EBacc and Progress 8 and developed its own measurement framework. Students learn via cross-curricular projects which involve people from local businesses and Plymouth University. 

Rosie Wolfenden founded Tatty Devine with Harriet Vine in in 1999; they were both awarded an MBE for Services to the Fashion Industry in 2013. She comments:

‘First and foremost Harriet and I are artists, we also employ 30 people and contribute meaningfully to the British economy. We wouldn’t have done this without creativity throughout our education. The creative industries are vital to Britain, so watching the curriculum be stripped of creativity simply makes no sense.’

Since the introduction of the EBacc, the number of students entering GCSEs in creative subjects has fallen dramatically.


•Between 2010 and 2018, fall of 57% in entries to Design & Technology GCSE

•20% reduction in entries to creative subjects

•Between 2016 and 2018, a fall of 17,000 entries in computer-based subjects

•The creative industries generate around £92 billion per annum.

•The sector is growing at twice the rate of the UK economy as a whole.

•The sector is expected to need 1.2 million new workers by 2022

CBI annual education and skills survey found that 86% of businesses rated attitude and 68% aptitude as a top attribute, compare to just 34% who said the same of formal qualifications. 

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