Professional bodies in the art and design sector have warned the industry may be plunging into a crisis of a dearth of talent because government education policies and Brexit are actively discouraging students from studying the design.
The National Society for Education in Art and Designs (NSEAD) said there was a worrying decline in student enrollment for GCSE art and design subjects, while the Creative Industries Federation (CIF) cautioned against the serious impacts of a failure to produce a new generation of professionals on the economy.
NSEAD noted that the number of students sitting for GCSE art and design numbers in 2016 have dropped drastically from 194,637 to 183,085, representing a 6% fall – the biggest percentage decline in candidate enrollment since 2000.
General Secretary of the body, Lesley Butterworth blamed decreasing interest of students in design on the skewed English Baccalaureate (EBacc) system which she said compelled students to overlook design in preference for more traditional subjects.
Speaking to an audience made up of politicians at an arts education summit at Portcullis House in London in October, Butterworth decried the erosion of the value attached to art and design, and said that children and young people with natural design skills and flair are being actively discouraged from applying for art and design in GCSE.
She also condemned a situation where primary and secondary teachers in the subject are not allowed access to tailored and intensive professional development in the subject.
EBacc has replaced GCSEs with five mandatory subjects: English, maths, science, geography or history, and languages, which is now being introduced into schools.
Also speaking at the arts summit, Sharon Hodgson MP who is the chair of the Art, Craft and Design in Education in parliament sharply criticized EBacc, saying that the drop in the number of students taking up art and design subjects would create a future conundrum where practitioners in the creative sector will be too few to influence growth in the industry.
Quoting official data, Hodgson noted that the creative industry contributes £84.1b yearly to the UK economy, with an increase of 6% per annum. She added that these remarkable figures were at risk as a fallout of the government’s decision to quit EU, as well as the government’s contentious education policies.
On its part, the Creative Industries Federation (CIF) voiced concerns about the negative impacts of Brexit and the new EBaac rules. In a report published in October, the body said the UK’s creative sector was facing a crisis of talent, and urged the government to reverse its plan to force students to use the EBacc curriculum, which sidelines art and design subjects. The report said Brexit will worsen the forecasted skills shortage – even if it’s in the short term.
The governor of the University of the Arts London (UAL) and co-founder of the London Design Festival, Ben Evans further expressed his views on the impact of Brexit and government education policies on the art and design sector.
Speaking at a panel discussion about design and Brexit, Evan said EU students who applied for degree courses in UK design schools are either deferring or cancelling their admission offers because they now feel less welcome and insecure about living and studying in the UK following Brexit.