The art of a good education

We don’t often get political here. Generally, we keep our opinions to ourselves, and focus on helping others express theirs. But, when it comes to arts subjects being squeezed out of the compulsory curriculum, there’s no avoiding the fact: people like us, and businesses like ours, will suffer first.

Ultimately, though, the impact will spread much further afield. 

Our studio is full of people who had the chance to discover and develop their artistic talents at school. Those talents – and, more importantly, the demand for those talents across all sectors – are the foundation of our business, and of many other businesses in the UK.

But there has developed the strange and damaging notion that the arts have no place beside, or relevance to, the ‘proper’ subjects at the core of the government’s proposed new curriculum. Nevermind the long history of people, from Da Vinci to Dyson, who have helped to build and shape our world through their ability to master and marry seemingly disparate disciplines.

The truth is, no subject or set of skills exists in isolation. Strong threads connect fashion to history, mathematics to music, engineering to design, science to art, and literature to drama. And those are only a few of the most obvious.

Through a broad education, subjects are allowed to inform, enhance, complement and support each other. Lessons learned in one subject, can improve your ability to learn another. Learning to play a musical instrument is worth doing, even if your future doesn’t lie in music. So too, learning a language even if you intend to live in your hometown forever, and learning to draw even if you have no ambition to become an artist.

Businesses like ours thrive on bringing creative skills to areas where they have been traditionally lacking. We spend our working weeks with engineers, scientists, teachers, entrepreneurs, civil servants and absolutely anyone with a need to think, work, and communicate in a more visual way. We may be the artists in the equation, but we couldn't do our jobs well without the benefit of our own broad educations.

Sometimes we do the creative work for our clients, and sometimes we teach them how to do it for themselves. But we’ve yet to find an industry with no need for or interest in those skills that we first developed in lessons soon to be squeezed out of mainstream education.

The creative industries are worth a record £84.1 billion to the UK economy. In 2014, they grew by 8.9 per cent - almost double the rate of the economy as a whole. 

What’s more, there is value in it, and the government isn’t blind to it. They’ve seen the figures and they’re impressive.

According to a report published by the government in January, the creative industries are worth a record £84.1 billion to the UK economy. In 2014, they grew by 8.9 per cent - almost double the rate of the economy as a whole. And it is estimated that as many creative roles exist outside of the creative industries as within them. 

As Minister for Culture, Ed Vaizey, rightly declared at the publication of the report: “The creative industries are one of the UK’s greatest success stories.” But, while he was vowing to “ensure its continued growth and success” against increasingly tough global competition, his colleagues at the Department for Education remained committed to a plan that, according to teachers, risksrelegating arts subjects to 'hobby' status in schools. 

At the start of 2015, Scriberia became a Knowledge Quarter partner. It’s an umbrella organisation, lead by The British Library, that celebrates the diversity of knowledge and skill that exists within a mile of Kings Cross in London. From dance companies, to primary schools, to institutes of medical research and even the likes of us; it aims to connect organisations and foster collaboration between them.

In a room full of choreographers, surgeons, biochemists, poets, activists, engineers, mathematicians and... Look, I don't want to make another list. I'm sure you get the picture: Everyone, from every field, had something to bring to the conversation - the more disparate the fields, the more fascinating the conversations that ensued.

Also in the room that day was the Chancellor, George Osborne; he was there to announce plans for the £42 million Alan Turing Institute for Data Science, and to give his backing to the Knowledge Quarter project.

It's true, we’re not eminent neuroscientists or code-breaking mathematicians, but we know there's enormous value in what we bring to the table.

It’s possible he was looking past us, when he talked of the wealth of skill and knowledge in the room. It's true, we’re not eminent neuroscientists or code-breaking mathematicians, but we know there's enormous value in what we, and other creative businesses like ours, bring to the table. And we know that, without the opportunity to study the subjects no longer considered key to a good education, we might never have discovered what that was.

There’s no doubt that without that opportunity, our lives – and the lives of everyone who has benefited directly or indirectly from the study of creative subjects at school - would have been all the poorer.

But the fact is, the UK would be all the poorer, too.