I was delighted to be at the launch of the Crafts Council Manifesto for Craft and Making – Our Future is in the Making – earlier in the week. For I believe passionately that we need to cultivate manipulate as well as articulate young people in our schools. At a time when we are becoming a sedentary and obese species, we persist in offering young people at secondary school an increasingly passive and restricted academic diet.
The malign influence of Progress 8
The Manifesto points out that take up of craft-related GCSEs has fallen by a worrying 25% in the last five years. And the cruelly misnamed ‘Progress 8’ rule which will come into play in 2016 will inevitably further restrict choice at GCSE. It will be anything but progress.
You only have to look at the DfE document describing Progress 8 to see into the mind of policy-makers to see where arts, crafts and practical subjects sit:
‘The new measure will be based on students’ progress measured across eight subjects: English; mathematics; three other English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects (sciences, computer science, geography, history and languages); and three further subjects, which can be from the range of EBacc subjects, or can be any other approved, high-value arts, academic, or vocational qualification.’
In an EBacc world activities requiring learners to use their hands are effectively invisible.
While I was engaged by the Crafts Council I was dismayed to find the Secretary of State for Education doing down the arts and by implication craft subjects this week. As the Daily Telegraph wrote:
‘Schoolchildren who focus exclusively on arts and humanities-style subjects risk restricting their future career path, the Education Secretary has warned. Disciplines such as the sciences and maths open more doors for pupils than many subjects traditionally favoured by academic all-rounders, according to Nicky Morgan.’
This is lazy stuff. Worse still when you read what Nicky Morgan actually said you realise how she is unthinkingly promoting false opposites:
‘If you didn’t know what you wanted to do… then the arts and the humanities were what you chose because they were useful, we were told, for all kinds of jobs. We now know that this couldn’t be further from the truth. That the subjects to keep young people’s options open are STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths.’
The Secretary of State was doubtless meaning to encourage people to pursue STEM subjects at the launch of the Your Life Campaign. I strongly support her in this ambition. But NOT if it means falsely polarising subjects of equal but different worth such as the arts and crafts versus engineering.
As someone said at the Crafts Council launch, we need to put Arts into STEM and make STEAM.
Engineering Habits of Mind (EHoM)
We recently published some research for the Royal Academy of Engineering, Thinking like an Engineer: implications for the education system. In it we argue that the way that the educations system is most likely to encourage more young people, especially girls, to pursue STEM subjects is to teach them more expansively. We need to be clearer about what the desired outcomes are, what we have called EHoM. Problem-based, enquiry-led demanding assignments are called for. The engineering design process needs be at the heart of our teaching and learning.
Here are the EHoM we suggested:
Notice anything about the middle two rings? I do. And I reckon our friends in the maker movement would too. They are entirely appropriate to craft subjects just as they are to engineering.
No more lazy, EBacc-inspired thinking, please. Let’s stick to a broad, rigorous and inclusive expansive educational agenda.