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  • Photo credit: Exhibition view of Ceramic Enrichment Programme at Pound Arts Corsham 2016

Studying Craft 16 Findings: Key Stages 4 - 5

Focus on Key Stages 4 and 5

Young people aged 14 to 18 in Key Stages 4 and 5 are making their first selection of the subjects that will shape their future study, training and career choices. Yet the evidence in Studying Craft 16 shows that the numbers taking craft-related courses are declining at an alarming rate, placing the pipeline of future makers at risk.

The number of students taking Design & Technology GCSEs fell 41% (to 106,930) between 2007/08 and 2014/15, with the greatest decline (48%) in Graphic Products GCSE. Participation in craft related courses at KS4 has declined at a faster rate than KS4 as a whole (23% compared with 6%). There has been a small growth in the number of KS4 learners studying Art & Design GCSE since 2011/12 but numbers in 2014/15 were still 5% lower than they were in 2007/08. This may reflect a trend in some schools of encouraging pupils to take Art & Design GCSE instead of Design & Technology, a subject which often requires more specialist and expensive equipment.

It seems likely that the increasing emphasis on performance measures, such as the 90% target for students taking the Ebacc, is weakening schools’ investment in creative subjects. It’s an alarming trend for the nurturing of young people’s creative skills, including the three dimensional work that is so important to making, engineering and problem solving.

The majority (56%) of craft learners at this level are girls and the gender gap has widened in recent years. The decline in numbers taking Resistant Materials Technology and Graphic Products GCSEs, which often attract more boys, may have contributed to this picture. In stark contrast, the number of male pupils at A level has risen to 60%. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) learners make up around 18% of crafts learners at KS4.

KS4 craft students have declined across all regions of England but the East Midlands and the North West have seen particularly steep declines (16% and 17% respectively).

At Key Stage 5, the number of craft learners in school sixth forms and 16-18 Further Education had declined. The proportion of all school sixth form learners who are studying craft courses declined from 16% to 12% between 2007/08 and 2014/15. Overall, numbers in school sixth forms have declined between 2007/08 and 2014/15, driven by a fall in learner numbers in Year 12.

The number of craft learners in Year 13 is slightly higher in 2014/15 than in 2007/08, but there has been a fall since a peak of 30,670 in 2009/10. Pupil numbers sitting A-levels have increased and this may indicate that fewer students are now giving up craft subjects after AS Levels. However, anecdotal evidence reaching us since we published Studying Craft 16 suggests that the decoupling of AS levels from A levels and the return to end of course assessment may now be leading to a decline in A level Art & Design entrants.

The proportion of BAME pupils studying craft A levels stands at around 16% and has been rising in recent years, but remains below the proportion of all school sixth form pupils (craft and non-craft) who are from BAME groups, which stands at 20%.

Most regions have seen a decline in craft pupils in school sixth forms, particularly the North East and Yorkshire & the Humber; however, the numbers of craft learners in the South East and South West numbers have increased since 2008/09.

Participation in 16-18 FE crafts courses has generally declined since 2007/08, however, there have been large fluctuations with participation falling between 2007/08 and 2010/11 and then rising to a peak in 2012/13 before falling again in recent years. The vast majority of participation at this level is in general craft, which has shown a 41% decline since 2007/08.

Key Stages 4 and 5 remain vital staging posts in the development of students’ skills and interest in craft and making. The decline in craft education that we are witnessing remains a course of deep concern. The evidence makes it all the more surprising that schools can be deemed outstanding by Ofsted, without reference to the standard and breadth of creative education on offer. We must see this reversed.

Julia Bennett, Head of Research and Policy

Bath Spa Ceramic Enrichment Programme - Julie Bush, Art Teacher Hardenhuish School, Chippenham, Wiltshire

Now in its sixth year, the 2016 Wiltshire Ceramic Enrichment Programme is a five-week  programme taught during the summer term and is led by Sarah Purvey MA BSAD (Bath  School of Art and Design Alumni)  and  Professor Michael Pennie BSAD.

Way back when it all started in 2010  Sarah Purvey approached  Professor Ron George from Bath Spa University with the idea of creating a programme of study using ceramics, after bringing small classes of Corsham students into Corsham Court and working with primary students at Corsham and Box on behalf of the university. He recognised the lack of quality ceramics teaching in secondary schools and the need to provide a link between secondary schools and further education if ceramics was going to continue to flourish as a university course.

Sarah Purvey devised the programme to work with the schools, she then enlisted the skills of Professor Michael Pennie, and invited local schools to join the programme.  As this was fantastic opportunity Hardenhuish School joined as well as other Wiltshire schools, such as Malmesbury, Melksham Oak, Matravers School, Westbury and Corsham Schools that enrolled on the programme.

Bath Spa University had kindly sponsored the programme for 5 years and in 2016 the programme has been generously supported by NADFAS Kington Langley, Malmesbury and Wessex area grants, Pound Arts Corsham, Bath Potters Radstock, Industrial Plasters Bromham and Bath Spa University Corsham Court Campus.

The Ceramic Enrichment Programme aims to introduce the students to a greater level of experience with clay and 3D form. It seeks to emphasise the importance of the relationship between 2D research and 3D within art and design courses in Higher Education and within professional art practice.

The Wiltshire Ceramic Enrichment Programme experience aims to support students’ portfolios towards applications for interview to Higher Education as well as their year 13 studies and to give the students an understanding of working alongside practicing artists. To reinforce the connection it introduced two drawing days held at Bath Spa. Students also have had the opportunity to mount their first exhibitions, and for five years this has been held in the exhibition space at Corsham Court, and then this year at the Pound Arts Centre, Corsham.

Year 12 students have benefitted from the amazing opportunity of working collaboratively with other local schools. It has been a truly enriching experience which has provided students with the opportunity to work beyond the classroom and bridge the gap between 6th form and university.

The benefits of this programme have been immense and have put a capital “E” into Education through the medium of clay.  None of this would have been possible without Sarah Purvey’s dedication, determination and drive. 

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