The Prince of Wales has warned the “creative arts” are in danger of being “forgotten and left out” within the school system as he celebrated the achievements of businesses encouraging young people into engineering and sciences.
Charles highlighted the importance of subjects like music and drama to the nation’s economy but lamented how they were being undervalued by the education sector as he presented the Industrial Cadets Awards 2018.
His comments were welcomed by Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, who said his members were having to cut back on curriculum options because of “government under-funding”.
The prince was supporting the Industrial Cadets initiative which offers accredited programmes aimed at inspiring young people into science, maths, engineering and technology careers, including apprenticeships, with businesses mentoring students.
But speaking during the ceremony staged at the Institution of Engineering
and Technology in central London, Charles said: “It is clear to me that the rapid pace of change in the way that our industries operate is bringing a host of new challenges and opportunities, not only in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but also of course in the creative arts.
“A sector that contributes enormously to this nation’s GDP but which is in danger of being forgotten and left out within the school system.”
Charles has a deep interest in the arts from his love of watercolour painting to opera and this year the prince will celebrate 25 years as president of the Royal College of Music.
The coalition government, during Michael Gove’s tenure as Education Secretary, introduced the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) which measures the numbers of pupils achieving a grade C – or grade 5 under the new grading system – at GCSE in English, maths, science, history or geography and a language.
There were concerns at the time the focus on these core subjects, would squeeze out others, such as art and drama.
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The Prince of Wales has highlighted an issue which is of enormous concern to our members.
“The problem is two-fold. Schools are judged on the basis of performance tables which heavily prioritise the English Baccalaureate subjects – English, maths, science, languages, history and geography – and marginalise other important subjects such as the creative arts.
“They are also under severe financial pressure because of government under-funding of the education system which leaves them with no option other than to cut back on curriculum options.
“Our members are doing their utmost to protect the place of the creative arts in our schools but they are faced with this double-whammy of pressures which are working in the opposite direction.
“Schools need sufficient funding and an accountability system which is less draconian.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education said: “Academic standards are rising with 1.9 million more children in good or outstanding schools than in 2010, and arts subjects are an important part of our broad and balanced curriculum.
“Since 2011, we’ve seen an increase in the proportion of pupils in state funded schools taking at least one arts subject at GCSE.
“This is backed by our £400 million investment in music and arts education programmes, such as the 120 music education hubs across the country which give every child the opportunity to play an instrument.”