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Education in the next Parliament must prioritise design and creative arts to reflect the needs of skills and productivity

Education in the next Parliament must prioritise design and creative arts to reflect the needs of skills and productivity

2nd June 2017

Jack Tindale, Design Policy Manager in the Manufacturing, Design and Innovation team at Policy Connect, highlights the importance of ensuring that design, technology and other creative subjects are given the attention that they deserve to develop rounded and skilled school-leavers in all areas of life. 

Together with our Education and Skills policy team, as well as the partnerships we work with such as the Design and Technology Association, the Design and Innovation team has worked to showcase a number of key policy recommendations for the next government to develop how these subjects are taught at the primary and secondary levels of education. 

At the moment, design, technology and other creative subjects need to be incorporated properly into the education system. The Department for Education should consider broader performance measures for schools with regard to how design and creative education is taught. The Design and Technology Association has been are the forefront of the campaign to incorporate art and design-based subjects into the Ebacc suite of GCSEs. This forms the basis of ensuring that students have the breadth of knowledge required to develop into creative, productive adults and achieve their full potential in a range of subjects. 

In its 2016 Spotlight On… report, the Skills Commissions noted that “Breadth of curriculum is vital in engaging learners and ensuring that the system works for all young people, regardless of their various learning preferences, providing them with strong foundations for the pursuit of further learning and development whether it be academic, technical, professional or vocational.” Indeed, it thus recommended that “The Department for Education should consider broader performance measures for schools or include an art or tech based subject in the Ebacc suite of GCSEs to ensure breadth in the curriculum.”

To help promote a diverse curriculum, the DfE should also monitor the update of Technical Awards and ensure that they are properly signposted to learners, parents and guarders. As well as this, we have proposed that policy makers should work closer with employers and teaching groups to guarantee that young learners are being given the practical and creative skills that the modern workplace requires. 

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and Engineering Professors' Council, has recently made the case that engineering degree students need a greater emphasis on creative subjects. This can only be achieved by making sure that students are given the freedom to develop their critical thinking skills, rather than simply upon the STEM agenda. 

Whilst maths and science remain vital to developing a skilled workforce, the narrow focus on them has created roadblocks to those wishing to enter a career in engineering. Key to this is a need to move away from academic teaching that is currently focused entirely on theory, to one that incorporates problem solving and critical thinking as a core part of their methodology. 

Creative skills – especially design – are vital in ensuring that a mobile, adaptive workforce is able to response to the demands of the future. 

The Design Council and Design Business Association, amongst others, have been vocal in their calls for a 'Skills for Growth' strategy that is able to ensure that these areas of study stretch across all areas of education and training, not simply at secondary level, but for adult learning and in-work-training as well. The forthcoming decades will see a revolution in the types of jobs and skills that are required for the jobs of tomorrow – and only by prioritising design and creative education will the workforce of tomorrow be able to adapt to the technological changes to come.