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‘Please stop telling us that the arts subjects are worth less than others’ – The Opinion of a Teacher

4th March 2016

Last night was GCSE options evening. That time of year when you get to stand at a stall and sell your subject, trying to illustrate why students should choose your humble offerings over the cornucopia of other subjects on display.

I’ve been teaching for almost 12 years now and have long since learned how to handle the inevitable comments from parents about the subject content of A-level or GCSE drama; have long since learned to smile serenely as I’m asked how many different trees their children will pretend to be over the course; learned to chuckle along when asked to describe just what colours they will attempt to imitate. I did, on one occasion, have to bite my tongue rather hard when asked by a gentleman why his son should spend two years learning how to shout, but on the whole, I remain polite, speak calmly and attempt to extol the virtues of a subject that I know is an incredibly valuable one for all concerned.

But, I’m finding it harder and harder to be polite. And I find that I have far fewer reasons to bite my tongue, because, to be honest, I’m getting a little fed up with it.

Back in November 2014, education secretary Nicky Morgan announced that for young people, the decision to study arts subjects could hold them back for the rest of their lives. Debate raged at the time, with advocates of the arts arguing about just how unhelpful a comment like this was, and with the government claiming that wasn’t what it meant at all, but not actually retracting the statement.

In June of last year it was discussed how schools might suffer in league tables if they didn’t push students to take the English Baccalaureate suite of subjects, thus marginalising creative subjects even more. And so it continues.

I’m not a politician. I can’t comment on the pressures of running a country; on the challenges of creating policies that appeal to the majority of people whilst benefitting the country financially, environmentally and educationally; the hardships between trying to balance what the people want with what the people need. I’m a teacher. I work with children. I can comment on that.

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