Billy Bragg says ‘education reforms risk stifling creativity’

Singer Billy Bragg has warned that the government’s education reforms risk stifling creativity and leaving the pop charts the preserve of a well-off public school elite. Bragg used a lecture in memory of broadcaster John Peel in Salford to criticise education secretary Michael Gove’s plans to scrap GCSEs in favour of an English baccalaureate. He also turned his ire on and “culture-clogging shows” such as Simon Cowell’s The X Factor on ITV1. This is from the Guardian…

The singer and leftwing activist said the government’s proposed new education system threatened to exclude creative subjects from the core qualifications expected of 16-year-olds.

“At a time of cuts to the education budget, the pressure on schools to dump subjects like music and drama in favour of those that offer high marks in performances tables will only grow,” said Bragg.

He criticised the “insistence that knowledge is more important than creativity”, adding: “As Albert Einstein said, imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited while imagination embraces the whole world”.

Bragg, delivering the second annual John Peel Lecture at the Radio Festival on Monday, said: “Under the English baccalaureate, with its reliance on a single end of course exam, the child with the creative imagination will always lose out to the child with the ability to recall knowledge learned by rote.

“And it’s not just the creatively talented kids who will suffer. Evidence shows that pupils from low-income families who take part in arts activities at school are three times more likely to go on to higher education.

“Young people do better in English and maths subjects if they study the arts. They are more easily employable, more likely to vote, to volunteer and to get a degree. You might add to that they will be more likely to get into the charts, too.”

Bragg said there had been a “steady decline” over the past decade of state-educated artists getting into the top 10. He pointed to a magazine study which compared the charts from 1990, when 80% of artists were state educated, with 2010 when the charts were dominated by people who went to private schools.

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