GBH Design’s Mark Bonner says that current education secretary Nicky Morgan has “deftly rebranded” Michael Gove’s eBACC plans to cripple under the guise of a focus on STEM subjects.
When I went to interview the new president of ad industry body D&AD, I didn’t think I’d hear him talk about eBACCs, Michael Gove and threats to creative education. But Mark Bonner says the threat is still there, he says, hidden under Morgan’s ‘obsession’ with improving the teaching of subjects such as science and technology – and the creative industries need to come together
You can watch this section of my interview with Mark above. A wider interview, which includes Mark discussing his plans for changes to the awards, the ceremony and who the D&AD is for, will be published soon.
It’s almost two years after we saw then education secretary Michael Gove publicly u-turn on his widely reviled plans to make creative subjects inferior to STEM subjects (science, technology, English and maths) – plans that included revising GCSEs and the league tables that depend from their results through a STEM-based qualification. It’s also almost six months since Gove was replaced by Morgan in the summer reshuffle – and Morgan has received credit for going some way to repair the relationship between teachers and the government, using less derogatory language about ‘poor teachers’ (leading that instead to the likes of Ofsted).
However, Mark believes that Morgan shares the same ideology as Gove – and that her campaign to improve teaching standards in STEM subjects is accompanied by a prejudice against creative subjects.
"Michael Gove's policies around eBACC have been rather deftly rebranded under the STEM proposals,” says Mark. "We face the same issues we did a year ago."
Mark says that this isn’t a possibility for the future, but is affecting schools right now. One of the underlying ways that Gove’s eBACC was going to damage creative education – which is still happening in a more limited form – was that only core subjects were going to count towards a school’s GCSE league table results. And it’s those results that the media, and therefore every school, is obsessed with. This would encourage schools to invest more in those core subjects and leave creative subjects short on resources.
“It’s a reality that a lot of school governors and heads started reducing funding to creative subjects because they felt they were going to become inevitably fringe and wouldn't contribute to their league table standing,” says Mark.
Mark says that personally he’d like to see the Include Design campaign restarted, which say support across the creative industries from industry bodies such as the D&AD and Design Council; prominent individuals including Apple’s Sir Jonathan Ive and Stella McCartney; and ad and creative agencies from London’s largest to emerging studios – plus all of the design press including Digital Arts.
He wants to see the D&AD get more involved in questioning "what's going on with creative education at secondary education", but also to contribute to improving it, in small ways as well overarching ones. He mentions a school in Hackney that the D&AD Foundation - its education arm - is creating a "pop-up" design school at to inspire all of the children who go there - whether they will or want to enter the creative industries or not.
Why does creativity matter?
Creativity isn't just for the creative industries, says Mark, and downgrading creative education will affect people's careers across all industries. An accountant is as much in need of creativity as an artist. Without the ability to think differently, all of the things that the government rightly celebrates about the best of Britain's science and technology industries - innovation, disruption and building new products and services - wouldn't be able to happen,
"We need creativity in maths and in science, otherwise we're going to create a nation of people who can't make leaps, can't innovate. and can just repeat accepted principles" says Mark. "We're never going to achieve that if we sideline the creative subjects as if its some kind of recreational subject that we use to relax."