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November 2014 Policy Brief

November's policy brief interrogates the links between innovation and education this month, starting with the Crafts Council’s Make:Shift conference and the launch of Our future is in the Making: An Education Manifesto for Craft and Making.

We follow up the theme with:

Innovation and education go hand in hand at the Crafts Council - Make:Shift and Our Future is in the Making

Make:Shift, our biennial innovation conference, last week showcased the accelerating pace of innovation in and through craft. The programme explored how advances in materials, processes and technologies drive developments in craft, and how makers contribute to innovation in science, engineering, technology, manufacturing and medicine. We interrogated, stimulated and celebrated innovation with current collaborators, future contenders, peripheral explorers and as-yet-unknown contributors.

The energy to spark such collaboration relies on an education and training system which can support new and existing makers and those who inspire them. Yet we have witnessed an alarming decline in craft education, as we highlight in our Manifesto, Our Future is in the Making, launched on 10 November in the House of Commons. Full details of the manifesto and the launch by Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt, MP, fellow MP Caroline Dinengage, Edmund de Waal and several young people are on our website.

The Manifesto, developed with makers and educationalists, is a response to figures in our new report, Studying Craft 2: update on trends in craft education and training. The numbers of students taking craft-related GCSEs fell 25 per cent between 2007 and 2012. During the same period, the numbers of craft courses in higher education dropped by 46 per cent. 

Participation in further education is dropping equally dramatically and apprenticeship figures in craft remain tiny. With investment in studying craft, art and design increasing elsewhere around the globe, it is critical that we safeguard the future of craft education in the UK. 

The Manifesto makes five calls for change:

  • To put craft and making at the heart of education.
  • Build more routes into craft careers.
  • Bring craft enterprise into education.
  • Invest in skills throughout careers.
  • Promote world-class higher education and research in craft.

Underpinning those calls are a set of specific actions, with the emphasis on what we can all do together to make a change.  Contact policy@craftscouncil.org.uk to discuss how you can contribute.

Education in and through craft is essential. Not only is it vital for young people who will go on to become leading makers and designers but also for the creativity, problem solving, ingenuity and skills that employers seek and to fuel the innovations highlighted at Make:Shift.

Other announcements:

STEM / arts and humanities debate

At the launch of Your Life, a campaign to promote STEM (press notice here), the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan MP, said

“Even a decade ago, young people were told that maths and the sciences were simply the subjects you took if you wanted to go into a mathematical or scientific career, if you wanted to be a doctor, or a pharmacist, or an engineer.

But if you wanted to do something different, or even if you didn’t know what you wanted to do, and let’s be honest - it takes a pretty confident 16-year-old to have their whole life mapped out ahead of them - then the arts and humanities were what you chose. Because they were useful for all kinds of jobs.

Of course now we know that couldn’t be further from the truth, that the subjects that keep young people’s options open and unlock doors to all sorts of careers are the STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and maths.

The skills gained from studying these subjects come in useful in almost any job you could care to name - from the creative and beauty industries to architecture.”

The Telegraph covered the story with the headline “Nicky Morgan: pupils 'held back' by overemphasis on arts” and the story was picked up in a number of other organisations’ blogs and articles.

Sarah Churchwell, Professor of American Literature and Public Understanding of the Humanities at University of East Anglia, gives a spirited defence of the humanities in The Conversation, in which she argues that education is about so much more than churning out labour for the jobs market.

Engineering’s creative side

Engineers should embrace the arts, Sir John O'Reilly, a fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, argued in his lecture Full Steam Ahead for Growth. About 59% of engineering companies in the Institute of Engineering’s 2014 survey feared skill shortages could threaten business.

Sir John said science, technology, engineering and mathematics are vital for a modern knowledge economy. But there is a massive shortfall in the number of recruits - with a recent study by the Royal Academy of Engineering saying the UK needs to increase by as much as 50% the number of Stem graduates it produces. Sir John argued that engineers should recognise the role of the arts in their work. Engineers should embrace the arts as being key to creativity and an important component of innovation, crucial to creating new products and boosting future competitiveness.

Government consultations on proposed GCSE and A/AS Level subject content

The Crafts Council’s response to the consultation welcomes a number of the proposed changes to GCSE design & technology, including the requirement for all pupils to develop a broad theoretical and practical knowledge of materials across disciplines and the room for young people to take, and learn from, creative risks.

However, the removal of the current range of specialist titles into a single awarded subject (Design and Technology) is of concern. We oppose the removal of these discrete subject endorsements. It is also crucial that specialist teaching capacity is retained to enable excellence in the teaching of the overall qualification, and to avoid dilution of learning in the individual areas of interest. We are concerned that changes may reduce the flow of talent into craft and making, eroding the professional skills base not only within the craft sector but in the very many other areas of the economy where craft skills make a substantial contribution.

Growth Through People 

This new report from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills provides a comprehensive summary of the state of the UK skills system, co-signed by the CBI and the TUC. UK productivity continues to lag behind most Western nations.The recession has provided further evidence of a shift in the shape of the labour market as globalisation and advances in technology transform markets, businesses and ways of working.

Skills Commission report on the changing structures of work 

A new Skills Commission report, Still in Tune, warns that the UK’s system of training and skills provision is growing increasingly out of step with the needs of the modern economy and that change is needed if the UK workforce is to remain competitively skilled.

The report identifies four distinct trends that the Commission argues have developed into significant barriers to a successful skills policy capable of providing a labour market to meet the needs of both individuals and employers across the UK economy. These four strategic alerts are:

  • Uncertainty around the responsibility for training in an increasingly flexible labour market;
  • Declining social mobility owing to a reduction in the alignment of skills provision to work;
  • Fragmentation in the system making it difficult for employers to engage; and
  • Alarming policy dissonance between different central government departments.

The report calls on government to do more in this Parliament and the next to ensure the UK’s skills system is reformed in order that it can continue its position as the ‘foundation of the nation’s future growth, innovation, and productivity’.

New computing curriculum is not a panacea for necessary digital skills

A new report from Nominet Trust has found that parents, teachers and business leaders should not rely on the new computing curriculum alone to deliver the skills young people will require when they enter the future workplace.

The State of the Art research looks at the progression of learners hoping to establish meaningful careers in the digital sector and calls for a radical re-think on how parents, teachers and business leaders equip young people for 21st century jobs. It notes that while the new computing curriculum is an important first step, schools must be given support and resources to extend digital learning across every subject, from art and drama to history and science.

Select committed report on Arts Council England funding

The Culture Media and Sport Committee says there is a clear arts funding imbalance in favour of London at the expense of tax payers and lottery players in other parts of the country, which must be urgently rectified.

Arts Council England has welcomed the findings of the report, and the opportunity to reaffirm their priorities for the near future which include building capacity outside of London, whilst not damaging the infrastructure in the capital.

44 facts about alternative finance in the UK

Nesta’s new report Understanding Alternative Finance looks at the growth, trends and dynamics within the UK alternative finance sector, including crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending. This research, conducted in partnership with the University of Cambridge with support from the ACCA and PwC, is a detailed survey of the alternative finance sector:

So called P2P business lending, which has seen an average growth of 250%, is the largest individual alternative finance market, with estimations being that by the end of 2014 it will have facilitated loans worth £749 million. The report shows that 70% of SME borrowers using P2P business lending have seen their turnover grow since secured funding with 63% of them recording a growth in profit.

New journal, Create

Arts Council England has published Create: A journal of perspectives on the value of art and culture. The journal aims to stimulate discussion about the true value of art and culture and the role they play in society. Contributors include Neil Gaiman and John Major.