Celebrating the arts - 5 reasons to study creative subjects

Celebrating the arts - 5 reasons to study creative subjects

Paul Steer, Head of Policy, along with subject specialists at our UK exam board OCR, explain why the arts should be celebrated and highlight some of the main reasons to study creative subjects.

As the creative industries move into first place to be the fastest growing economic sector in the UK, responsible for 5.6% of jobs, and worth £76.9bn to the UK economy, OCR is making a plea for art, music and drama in school to be celebrated.

“Arts in school are a crucial ingredient in the making of UK’s creative life – one of the nation’s USPs. But artists, musicians, writers and actors are not born skilled,” warns Paul Steer, Head of Policy at OCR.

“Huge numbers of creative professionals can trace the igniting of their creativity back to experiences at school, whether it was encouragement from a school art teacher, acting in a play or singing a particular piece of music at school. Lily Allen, Grayson Perry and Evelyn Glennie all talk with passion of the influence a particular teacher had in inspiring them to develop their creativity and follow a creative career,” he adds.

Creative subjects are not included in the five core subject areas of the Ebacc. Marie Jones, OCR Music specialist, said: “This generally leaves room for only one creative subject at GCSE at most.” Over the last few years numbers taking creative GCSEs have plateaued, and gone down at A Level. The 2014 Warwick Commission report documents decline going back further: ‘Between 2003 and 2013, there was a 50% drop in the GCSE numbers for design and technology, 23% for drama and 25% for other craft-related subjects’.

To support creativity at school, OCR has worked hard to make its new GCSEs and A Levels, for first teaching from September 2016, relevant and engaging. “OCR’s arts subjects know no borders,” Paul continues. “They take inspiration from the ‘best of British’ but also from the ‘greatest of global’ – from Bach to Bhangra, Purcell to Frank Lloyd Wright, Lady Gaga to the Beatles, and Jean Paul Gaultier to Willy Russell.”

GCSE Art and Design offers 64 topic choices ranging from stage design to animation, photojournalism to exhibition curation and soft furnishings to public art. Music covers composers from Bach to Lady Gaga as well as original composition and music technology. Drama offers set design and lighting, sound and costumes as well as lively set texts. Examples are ‘Blood Brothers’ by Willy Russell and ‘Missing Dan Nolan’, a true story by playwright Mark Wheeler who is working with OCR’s drama team on support materials. OCR also successfully campaigned for as much practical assessment as possible in arts subjects.

Five reasons to study creative subjects


Art and Design, Music and Drama specialists at our UK exam board OCR have selected the five main reasons to study creative subjects:

1. The arts make self starters and develop emotional intelligence
All require the student to set their own agenda from within themselves, rather than follow set topics as in other subjects. They have to make independent decisions all the way, and be self-critical. They also need to be brave in exposing their creations, and accept criticism. Working in teams makes students into good communicators.

2. The arts are stretching
Music, art and drama require long hours of hard work and dedication. Students have to pay great attention to detail, to perfect and redo. Putting on a play, exhibition or concert takes strong organisational skills.

3. Arts students are highly sought-after by employers
Many employers now actively seek those who have studied the arts. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, was fond of saying his success was due to his hiring artists and musicians fascinated by technology rather than computer geeks. Top talent management agency, The Curve Group specialising in financial and business services, concurs: “Employees with an arts degree have developed more quickly in their roles from the start. They have discipline, confidence and can accept criticism.”

4. Arts ‘reach the parts other subjects can’t reach’
The arts develop the broader dimensions of the human being – mind, body and soul. The arts can express the inexpressible and make sense of things that otherwise do not seem to. This can be very fulfilling and helps us function as human beings – which can only be good for society as a whole.

5. Arts ‘reach the students other subjects can’t reach’
Teachers find arts subjects particularly beneficial for two groups: those who struggle with traditional subjects and those who are high achieving. Less academic students can become defeatist if they feel they can’t achieve: drama, music or art can be the place they blossom. With studious students, the arts can bring them out of themselves and be a release.

Compiled by Marie Jones, Music specialist; Karen Latto, Drama specialist ; Jane Beagrie, Art and Design

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