Author Philip Pullman has said the UK is run by “philistines and barbarians” as government plans appear to reduce the status of arts subjects in secondary schools.
Pullman was speaking to Sky News about the government’s decision to phase the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) into secondary schools, which has core GCSE subjects of English, maths, science, a language and history or geography. Schools will be judged by students’ GCSE results in the core subjects, but not others like art, music and drama, from 2020 onwards.
Pullman said: “The arts are beyond price, they're beyond value, they're of incalculable worth in what it means to be a human being.”
He also urged government ministers to “go to the theatre, go to a concert, go to an art gallery, go to a museum, become somehow interested in these things”, adding "if they're not interested, they shouldn't be in government, full stop. You're lacking a human dimension of some sort if you're not interested in the arts. And I think it's a terrible fate to be ruled by philistines and barbarians as we seem to be at the moment.”
Last year, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan steered teenagers away from studying the arts and humanities, saying: “The subjects that keep young people’s options open and unlock the door to all sorts of careers are the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths).”
According to Sky, there has been a drop in pupils studying arts subjects at A-level in the last five years.
A Department for Education spokesman told Sky: "At the heart of our commitment to extending opportunity is our belief that all pupils should have access to an excellent education. The arts - including music, drama and dance - are a key part of this. That is why art and design and music are compulsory subjects within the national curriculum for 5-14 year olds and why pupils also have to study drama, as part of the English curriculum, and dance, as part of the PE curriculum."