A Letter To The Tories: Why The Arts Matter, Too

As I’m writing this, I am 16 years old. I’ll be taking my GCSEs in a couple of months, then my A levels in two years time. I’m the prime age for Michael Gove’s (and subsequently Nicky Morgan, and Justine Greening’s) absurd policies about a ‘British education’ to be of heavy impact. And I’m not happy about it.

At the age of 12, I was offered the chance to take Spanish, as well as French, as I began my second year of secondary education. If I didn’t accept, and decided to just continue learning one language, I would have been moved to a different French class, thus meaning I’d be with a group of people of a different ability to me. My parents were given a letter explaining this before I began learning Spanish, and nothing more was mentioned of it until year 9, when the chance to choose my GCSE options arose.

For my year, the choices were fairly bleak. The only subject that hadn’t been offered at lower school that was then being offered at GCSE was business studies. It also became evident that, because I’d wanted to broaden my options at the age of 12, and take 2 languages, that due to ‘school policy’, I had to take a language and a humanities GCSE.

This is, of course, because of league tables. These subjects (for a reason that’s unknown to, well, everybody) count for more, so the school pushed those of a suitable ability to take them. While these subjects are not STEM subjects (that stands for ‘science, technology engineering and maths’), the fact that, in order to play the game that the present government and its previous ‘academic subject’ obsessed predecessors laid out for them, my school felt the need to limit the choices of certain students, is just absurd.

Fast forward to present day. I’m choosing my A Level options. The convenience of me staying at my current school has been pushed aside because, guess what? My school no longer offers any sort of Level 3 Media course. I want to be a journalist, for crying out loud, and I’ve wanted to take either media or film studies since I first learnt what the subjects entailed. The main reason for axing subjects like this is lack of funding.

On a note less relevant to myself, A Level languages won’t be offered at my current school next year, either. This is also due to government cuts, and poor funding. For something as important as a subject that teaches global verbal communication to be so poorly funded, well, I can’t work out if that’s naive or just plain arrogant.

The world will always need scientists and mathematicians. But the world will always need writers and filmmakers, musicians and linguists, too. The world will always need creative minds because creativity is what sets us apart as a race, and, if we want to get really deep, make us human. So why does the Conservative Government feel the need to reduce funding for and disregard these crucial subjects? There are multiple answers, all involving money, global competition, and capitalism. But it all boils down to the fact that they don’t care. They don’t care that knowledge is relative or that people learn in different ways. The Tory government have made the education system in this country impersonal, monotonous and inadequate.

You are not a child; you are a statistic. You are a target grade, a predicted grade, a percentage, then a letter on a piece of paper (or, as of next year, a number). You are compared, from the moment you set foot into high school as a zealous 11 year old, to the moment you leave as a young adult, to how well you performed in your year 6 SATs. And other factors, of course, like how much money your parents earn, because that’s totally relevant.

This is wrong. Teachers know it’s wrong; most students know it’s wrong. But the government don’t. Or maybe they do, and they’re just choosing to ignore it.

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Caitlin Burns
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I like dogs.

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