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Schools - power house of the economy

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The Key’s recent joint survey with Ipsos Mori showed how seriously school leaders take their responsibility for educating the whole child. I think they should recognise, too, how much schools are the power house of our economy.

At a recent speech day in the school where I am a governor, Lord Bichard highlighted the danger of thinking too narrowly about what is a productive curriculum. As former chair of the Design Council, and Rector of the University of the Arts, London, he challenged his listeners – including me - to think hard about the value of design and the arts within the British economy.

Are schools being encouraged to narrow down the curriculum with too much stress on literacy and numeracy at the expense of the arts? Is art still regarded as a soft option? Do ambitious parents and headteachers value “safe” professions such as medicine, law and accountancy more highly than design and invention? Perhaps we have enough lawyers and accountants, thank you.

Of course, any balanced economy (one that is not, for example, based solely on oil) has to depend on ideas, skill, hard work and the ability of people to work constructively together if it is to grow and thrive. The UK is a world leader in the fields of design and technological innovation. We are crying out for more highly-skilled designers, imaginative software engineers and adventurous project managers - and yet we run the risk of devaluing creativity and design in our school curriculum.

This was seriously challenging food for thought.

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