Let’s be very clear: the creative subjects are under threat. Almost all arts subjects have seen a decline in GCSE entry rates since the introduction of the Ebacc measure and, despite what Mr Gibb says, this is not a coincidence. Coupled with high-stakes accountability in both primary and secondary schools, and immense budget pressures in many parts of the country, the arts are fighting for survival in the curriculum.
This is wrong. The arts, it barely needs saying, are integral to individual students’ flourishing and their development. Moreover, we know that the creative industries are of immense value to the British economy and must be nurtured. At their core, the arts explore the very essence of what it means to be human, lived in a shared community. How, then, in the current climate, do we protect them?
Following her guest editorial on BBC’s Woman’s Hour earlier this year, we are pleased to confirm that Charlotte Church has accepted our invitation to speak at this year’s conference. While she may not have a background in education, Charlotte is a passionate advocate for fostering creativity in schools, and is currently in the process of setting up her own school with creativity at the heart. Charlotte’s powerful advocation for the arts will be illustrated by practising headteachers who have been able to maintain the arts as a core part of the curriculum, while at the same time achieving well in the new performance measures. Workshops include Formby High School, who continue to maintain what they cheekily call ‘the dark arts’ in these challenging times.
We know achieving a creative curriculum is a real challenge for schools, and that no one wants to cut arts subjects, but we must speak up when we know that the real decline of arts and technical subjects is wrong.
However, this strand is not just about arts subjects: it’s also about how you think creatively about your curriculum. With the former Coalition government’s reforms now (almost) fully realised, there is space to think about how a curriculum can meet the needs of your young people while simultaneously meeting your statutory requirements. Ofsted’s sharper focus on curriculum should encourage us to look at it more closely. A diverse range of workshops include the Brooke Weston Academy, who put curiosity at the heart of their curriculum design, and the Community College Whitstable, who have core knowledge and oracy as their focus.
At SSAT, we do not believe that the 21st century requires a total rethink of the curriculum. The desired outcomes of education needed to thrive in a future economy will not be drastically different from those needed in the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, or the late 20th century. But we do believe that schools should think imaginatively about their curriculum, and do what’s right for the children and communities they serve. That’s why we’ve made it a core theme of this year’s conference.
View the latest programme, read speaker profiles and book at www.ssatuk.co.uk/nc18.
SSAT Secondary Network members have a free two-day pass to the conference as part of their membership and also have the opportunity to bring their School Business Manager for free on Wednesday for a dedicated programme. Discounted passes are available to all other SSAT members.