14-19 qualifications, the Creative Industries and Design Education update

24 February 2012

Over the past couple of months there have been a couple of key reports published by Creative Industry and design experts and this post aims to give you a quick overview of the key points they cover. It is interesting – and extremely heartening – that both echo the CLA’s recommendations in stressing the importance of keeping creative and cultural subjects in the National Curriculum and of including them in the English Baccalaureate. Both reports argue that this is the only way that our education system will support the economic growth of our vital industries .

To put these recommendations in their current context it is worth taking note of some of the other announcements and statistics that have come to light this month: the recent changes to the status and equivalency of 14-19 qualifications delivered in schools, the impact of the new 16-19 Bursary Fund, and the latest numbers of UCAS applications to cultural and creative disciplines.

Taken together, these will all have a significant impact on the experiences and subjects that young people are able to choose to pursue at school and university.

In order to build and sustain our creative industries we are going to have to collectively champion and engage with these issues. Get in touch to let us know how you have been affected, what you think of the recommendations below, and what you are doing to develop a diverse, expert workforce for our sector.

Changes to 14-19 Qualifications and Equivalents

What are they?

This month, the government has announced changes to 14-19 qualifications and their status in relation to school performance tables. This is part of the implementation of last year’s Wolf Review. The headlines of the changes are:

  • there are currently 3,175 ‘equivalent’ qualifications accredited and approved for study by 14- to 16-year-olds, all of which count in school performance tables. Some of these are worth as much as four, five or six GCSEs and take equivalent time to complete;
  • from 2014, just 125 of these qualifications (3.9 per cent of the current total) will count. Full-course GCSEs, established iGCSEs, AS levels and music exams at grade six and above will also be included. All will be included on the same one-for-one basis;
  • of the 125 to be included, 70 can count towards a school’s main Performance Table measure – the proportion of pupils who get five A* to C GCSE grades. The other 55 are qualifications which cannot contribute to the five A* to C measure;
  • some of the qualifications included are subject to future review. This is because they have demonstrated they have most but not all of the necessary characteristics that the government is looking for, or because they are too new to demonstrate a track record. They are being given an extra year to do this.

What is a school performance table and why does it matter?

Performance tables allow parents and interested parties to compare schools and colleges on a range of indicators including; attainment data, spend per pupil data, school workforce data and Ofsted judgments. For a school to perform well, it needs to show that it is delivering a competitive number of qualifications and, more often than not, headteachers will ensure that their resources are channelled towards the accredited courses that will enable them to achieve this. These changes could very quickly lead to less funding and support for any courses that don’t count, and a reduction in the number of options that young people are given to choose from.

What does this mean for cultural learning?

At first glance, it looks as though the main cultural learning qualifications have retained their place, or will be eligible once they have been restructured. For example this applies to: Level 2 BTECs in Arts and Design, Music, and Performing Arts; NCFE Level 2 awards in Art and Design, Interactive Media, Performance Skills, and Music Technology; OCR Level 2 awards for Creative iMedia; and RSL Level 2 Certificates for Music Practitioners.

However, we will all need to keep a close watch on the new specifications as they might change. The most serious implication for cultural learning qualifications is the pronouncement that all qualifications will be treated in performance tables ‘on the same one-for-one basis’. Some of the more complex level two qualifications take much more time to complete that a GCSE, and consequently need more resource and more curriculum allocation – a serious disincentive to headteachers, who are juggling to ensure as many young people as possible take the E-Bacc subjects. There is a real possibility that these subjects will be simply squeezed out. This implication lends even greater weight to the recommendation made by the CIC Skillset Skills group (see below) that we quickly identify and champion the qualifications that we prize.

Decline in UCAS applications to Creative and Cultural Disciplines

The numbers of applications to UK Universities is down by almost 10% across the board – something that has been reported widely in the press over the last few weeks (See Mike Baker’s Blog, Guardian, the Daily Mail and the BBC).

Looking at the data, it seems that the Creative and Cultural disciplines have taken some of the most serious hits. Architecture is down by over 16%, Technology is down by over 17%, Creative Art and Design by 16.3% and Combined Arts by 16.1%.

This has a number of implications for universities as many need to ensure that they have a large enough cohort to make a department viable. If numbers are too low then departments which are already straining for funding will face closure – meaning that the sector will lose not only HE courses but the expertise, training, research and innovation that these departments also offer our industries.

As everyone has said, it is too early to tell what these figures really mean, but they are enough to start some alarm bells ringing.

The Creative Industries Council Skillset Skills Group: The Report

CICSSG – Who are they?

This group was set up to make recommendations to the government’s Creative Industries Council. It includes representatives from; Skillset, Creative and Cultural Skills, the Design Council, CBI, BECTU, UK Music, IPA, Microsoft, Pearson, Mulberry, the BBC Academy, the British Fashion Council, e-skills, NESTA, Film Skills Council and UKIE.

What report?

The recent report outlines industry-led approaches and proposals which address skills and talent issues and which aim to boost the growth and competitiveness of the Creative Industries in England.

What does it say?

There are a number of very sensible recommendations in the report relating to business leadership and the development of new governance structures for creative industries and of networks. There are also some very strong recommendations related to the National Curriculum and to the E-Bacc:

‘The current ICT syllabus should be reformed with computer programming and other creative subjects properly embedded in the classroom. Computer science, arts, design and/or a creative subject (music, film, media and photography) should be included in the National Curriculum as compulsory subjects, and also as options within the English Baccalaureate.

… the relevant Sector Skills Councils should lead a consultation process across the Creative Industries identifying those vocational qualifications that they wish to champion as meeting current and future employer need and that will be of most value for students wishing to enter the sector. It will be instructive to compare these alongside those qualifications included in the Department for Education (DfE) approved list, and a dedicated officer within DfE should be appointed so that the Creative Industries are able to communicate their findings at a level that ensures that Government gives them the fullest consideration ... In addition, the range of practical and academic subjects identified by employers as being most essential for the sector will be made fully available through the single Creative Industries online careers resource and the All Age Careers Service.’

The report also includes recommendations that:

  • business skills should be taught alongside creative ones;
  • industry should link more closely with Higher Education Providers;
  • Apprenticeships should be championed, and group training associations (GTAs) should deliver more of them;
  • internships must be improved;
  • a quality mark for Skillset approved learning providers in the creative industries is developed;
  • data and evidence of skills gaps and industry need should be aggregated and made readily available;
  • legislation should change to allow freelancers to access training from their employers.

Restarting Britain: Recommendations from the Design Commission

Who are the Design Commission?

The Design Commission was established a year ago by the Associate Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group.

It aims to promote a proper understanding of the essential role of design in enabling economic growth and social wellbeing in the UK.

The Commission comprises leading designers, academics and parliamentarians, and is chaired by Lord Bichard. It includes representatives from; the Design Museum, the Institution of Engineering Designers, University of the Arts London, The Team, the Design Business Association, Hemingway Design, Directional Thinking, CHEAD, Design Council, Creative and Cultural Skills, The Royal College of Art, Seymourpowell and D&AD, FTI Consulting, Companies House, Doors of Perception, the Holmes & Marchant Group, Media Square, the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

What report?

This report came out just before Christmas and makes recommendations to government for the future of design.

What does it say?

The report really stresses the need for design to be integrated across the curriculum and for the role of artists and makers to be recognised for their role in invention and innovation.

‘Typically, great inventions and innovations more often than not emerge from the boundaries between disciplines. Leonardo da Vinci is perhaps the original such modern inventor – both a scientist and an artist. But a bit closer in time, H. R. Fox Talbot was only able to invent photography because he was an expert in chemistry, optics, the classics and an artist. Thomas Edison’s prolific inventions spanned traditional disciplinary boundaries. Kenneth Grange changed the hallmarks of 20th century Britain – trains, kitchen appliances, cameras, bus shelters – by applying his artistic and social nouse across a number of industries.’

The key recommendations are:

  • Government needs a national design strategy that it takes ownership of in a well-informed and pro-active way
  • Whilst government should oppose any move to remove design from the National Curriculum, we also need to think again about how design operates in schools
  • Further education routes into the sector need to be expanded and developed
  • Higher education centres of excellence – resource-intensive high quality centres teaching tomorrow’s innovators and researching future practice – need protecting and funding

Barnardos: Staying the Course

This report investigates the impact of the new 16-19 Bursary Fund (which has replaced the old Education Maintenance Allowance(EMA) on young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. There are some interesting findings, but the sad conclusion is that:

‘This research demonstrates that the new 16-19 Bursary Fund leaves too many without the financial backup they need to support their everyday expenses, leaving them out of pocket and seriously considering whether they can afford to stay the course.’

There are a number of recommendations for government – the chief of which is ‘that all young people who have previously been on free school meals should receive a bursary adequate to meet typical support needs in line with the Pupil Premium.’