Arts subjects being squeezed out in schools means the education system is failing to produce well-rounded, creative children, the head of Arts Council England has said.
Speaking at the launch of a new report, Sir Nicholas said it was “short-sighted and morally wrong” not to do more to teach children and young people to be creative – and that the benefits go beyond the arts.
“We can revolutionise the whole economy by being more creative,” he said.
The Durham Commission on Creativity and Education has set out a number of recommendations after 18 months of evidence gathering and research, with a long-term vision to promote creativity in education and to make it a priority.
Sir Nicholas, who is chair of the commission, said he was “deeply concerned” about the reduced status of the arts since the introduction of the Ebacc (English baccalaureate).
The system was introduced in 2011 and tracks how many pupils are entered at GCSE for seven core academic subjects – English, maths, the sciences, history or geography and a language – and how they perform.
Sir Nicholas told an audience of arts professionals there should be a “national plan for cultural education” alongside those which already exist for sports and music.
“We have a schools system which is very much directed to examinations and what we want is to see schools open themselves up to a more creative approach to teaching… to give young people the sense of confidence that they have when they know how to solve problems, rather than simply learn how it’s been done before,” he said.
Speaking to Sky News, he flagged that the UK is lagging behind other countries such as Canada, Finland and Singapore, where creativity is at the centre of education.
He went on to question whether children were being equipped for a life where technology will increasingly drive change, where few can expect lifelong jobs and in which creativity can “drive major innovation in all areas of life”.
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The commission has made a range of recommendations in its report, including better recognition and evaluation of teaching for creativity in schools, a recognition of this teaching in the Ofsted inspection process, as well as inclusion of the arts as standard in the curriculum to key stage 3.
It is calling on a range of organisations, including the Department for Education, Ofsted and Arts Council England, to help deliver its vision.
Sir Nicholas said at the moment the independent sector is much better resourced and this has the potential to increase socioeconomic divides if it continues.
“The danger at present is that its currently much easier to get a broader, more creative education if you have the money to go to a private school,” he said.
“There are great state schools being well led that do this work but what we want to see is a much larger number of schools in the state system able to do this.”