Government includes design in education reforms

The Government has abandoned plans for the controversial English Baccalaureate Certificate, and is reforming the GCSE system to include design.


Education Secretary Michael Gove described plans for the EBCs, which would have replaced GCSEs, as ‘a bridge too far’, and ‘one reform too many’.

The EBC plans have come under sustained attack from critics since they were unveiled by Gove in September 2012. In the design industry, pressure group #IncludeDesign, which is supported by Design Week, has lobbied Government to reconsider its proposals, which would have lead to design being taught outside the National Curriculum.

Gove has now U-turned on his plans, announcing that GCSEs are to be retained. In addition, Gove says all of the current National Curriculum subjects will stay. This means it will be compulsory for pupils to study design and technology up to Key Stage 3, with schools obliged to offer design teaching afterwards.

The Education Secretary says art and design subjects will be taught with ‘a stronger emphasis on painting and drawing skills’, and ICT and computer science teaching is being reformed ‘with help from Google, Facebook and UK-based computer scientists’.

#IncludeDesign and other groups had also criticised the Government’s English Baccalaureate performance measure, which has been in place since 2011 and is based around five ‘pillars’ – maths, English, languages, humanities and science.

This system is also being reformed. Schools will now be assessed across eight subject areas, which could include creative subjects such as art, design or music. Gove says this will allow schools to teach ‘a broad, balanced curriculum’.

Joe Macleod, global design director at ustwo and co-ordinator of #IncludeDesign campaign, says, ‘This is fantastic news for the whole of the design industry and creative economy. That Michael Gove is now listening to the 100 creative industry and education leaders who handed in a letter to Number 10 last week raising their serious concerns is a great step forwards.

‘As an industry this gives us an opportunity to work with education leaders and the government to help support the shared vision of a world-class syllabus that offers students a fully rounded education.’

Macleod adds, ‘Without these changes to the EBacc, we would have lost the designers, architects and creativies of the future, as their talents would have been constricted by schools being pushed to prioritise an unnecessarily narrow range of subjects that reflected the past and not the future. The creative industries are worth more than £60 billion a year to the UK economy and it would have been a catastrophe if creative subjects such as design & technology had been lost from schools at Key Stage 4. Now we need to see the same breadth included at A-Level too.’

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians and coordinator of the Bacc for the Future campaign, which also lobbied against EBacc, says, ‘Creative subjects such as art, music and design and technology need to stay at the heart of education so that we can develop talented youngsters to feed our creative industries and generate growth.

‘The voices of the creative industries and education sectors have been listened to, and we welcome this.’

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