Let’s Blame the Teenagers Again…creativity in school

“Design and technology GCSE has disappeared from nearly half of schools because teenagers no longer like making things, a survey has found”

“Hundreds of schools across the country have axed the subject from the curriculum in the past year alone, according to a poll of teachers conducted by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).” The Daily Telegraph, 10th March 2017 – full article here

Oh this has made me very cross. What follows  may be a slightly incoherent rant but I am bloody annoyed about this.

I doubt very much this has happened because ‘teenagers not longer like making things’. It’s because they are not given the opportunity to. I don’t have a teenager yet, but I do have an almost nine year old and that’s only four tears off being a teenager – you can already see the teenager within. He’s at a large primary school where there is no dedicated art space, and seems to do very little art or design in his school week. Certainly not as much as I was doing at his age, though they do their best in their tiny cramped classrooms. It seems it’s only going to get worse as he gets older. I chatted with my own pottery teacher about craft and design in schools and she also painted a depressing picture of schools with no dedicated art rooms or workshop spaces; she herself goes in and teaches pottery sessions as a volunteer in local schools.

Now I know my almost nine year old doesn’t ‘not  like making things’, he does like making things.  I don’t imagine/I hope he won’t turn 13 and, to paraphrase the famous Kevin and Perry sketch, suddenly go ‘I HATE art’ and slink off, greasy haired and spotty to sit in his stinky room and sulk. He’s no paragon though, he’d watch telly or YouTubes of Minecrafters all day long if I let him*, though he likes doing minecraft too  (I’d call that design anyway).  He’ll also voluntarily put a huge LEGO kit together mostly on his own – and if you haven’t tried to build the Millenium Falcon (1,329 very fiddly mostly grey pieces) don’t tell me “that’s not ‘design and technology”.

He’s  taken up a mallet and made – well, another mallet – in a woodworking tent at our favourite festival. He demanded we go back the next day to make a wooden mushroom. He made a copper bangle the following year. I saw his face light up when he polished up this thing made from a bit of copper plumbers pipe into a piece of shiny bling:

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One day he came home from school with a mobile inspired by Cornelia Parker’s ‘Dark Matter, which just shows what schools can do if they’re given the chance and a – very few – resources.He goes to a science camp during the holidays and brings home weather stations made of milk bottles; star maps of pin holes and black cardboard; a changing colour chameleon made from paper plates and paint. He won a Blue Peter badge for his pen pot make, a very proud moment!:

So I feel absolute despair about this scrapping of design and technology GCSE in many schools. What awaits our currently primary school aged kids? A slog through the increasingly narrowing academic subjects and no chance to learn how to use a sewing machine or a drill. Are they going to have any innate creativity they do have taken out of them because the urge to make things is neglected? I fear so.  What about the kids who are amazing at what used to be called ‘Craft, Design and Technology’ but struggle with languages, maths and so on – are they less worthwhile an investment? I don’t think so.

It seems school is no longer a place to get an all round education. A place where you could learn to do quite hard maths, but also learn how to enamel a piece of brass, cut out and sew together a top, or make a slightly lop sided piece of ceramic  which is still in use as a safe place for keys at your parents house 35 years later. 

But let’s blame the teenagers and their supposed lack of interest for this, not the attitude of successive governments with a mania for increasingly narrowing the curriculum, making school (and subsequently college and university) a sausage machine pushing out workers to serve their ends. Let’s reduce again the opportunities young people may have to shine. God forbid anyone should go to school and become inspired, or have an idea of their own – creative or otherwise.

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