News / Comments

Does a focus on English and maths suppress students’ creativity?

It is argued that the current school curriculum has a heavy focus on traditional academic subjects such as English, maths and science, perhaps at the detriment of other lessons like art and music.

It’s important that creative subjects are acknowledged, as well as celebrating and encouraging children’s different strengths and abilities.

Art and craft activities have been proven to help develop skills such as observation, manipulation, visual thinking and the ability to recognise and form patterns. What’s more, they develop habits that include practicing, persevering, and problem solving.

John Abbott, a principle at a sixth form college has said that government’s focus on academic achievement in traditional lessons “makes him fear for the future cultural fabrication of society”. So, are schools stifling creativity in favour of repetition? Here, he explains his argument.

“My youngest is much more outgoing, socially confident and very creative. She is making reasonable progress in literacy, but she really struggles with numeracy. No matter how long we spend on the kitchen table with toes and fingers in the air, she finds it hard to visualise the numbers and any success is largely down to rote learning. She just isn’t very good at maths.

“What she is particularly good at is painting and drawing. This comes easily to her and is something she just loves to do. She will spend days on end modelling “junk” into “art” and loves to dance or sing in a carefree, crazy way that her elder sister would never dream of. Through her reports and weekly tests, she already knows that she is “below expected progress” for numeracy, and she has been like that for some time. The impact of this is that she doesn’t think the creative stuff is important because it’s not celebrated or valued.

“I’m not sure she will ever be that great at maths, I think she will probably get better, but the scary thing as both an educator and a dad is that she is likely to spend at least the next eight years being repeatedly told about her shortcoming in this subject without equal compensatory praise for the things she is good at.”

John also notes the impact this could have on students’ mental well-being. He states that if educators and policymakers aren’t able to celebrate a range of skills and talents at the expense of English and maths ability, then this can have a real negative impact on children’s self-esteem.

What is your stance on creative subjects and how they sit in the curriculum? To read the full article, head over to the TES website.