Safeguarding the future of craft education

 17 November 2014

Our Future is in the Making: An Education Manifesto for Craft and Making was launched on the 10 November 2014, at the House of Commons. Annie Warburton, Creative Programme Director at the Crafts Council talks about how important craft making skills are for the next generation of creatives.

Numbers of students taking craft-related GCSEs fell 25 per cent between 2007 and 2012.
Numbers of students taking craft-related GCSEs fell 25 per cent between 2007 and 2012.

As I went through security at House of Commons recently, an official stopped me to examine the bicycle multitool that I’d forgotten was in my bag. A quick inspection of the gadget and I was through. What they didn’t notice is something far more powerful (the pen is, after all, mightier than the sword) the Education Manifesto for Craft and Making, which I was at the Commons, with others, to launch.

The decline of craft education

With investment in studying craft, art and design increasing elsewhere around the globe, it is critical that we safeguard the future of craft education in the UK. 

The manifesto, entitled 'Our Future is in the Making' is a response to shocking figures on craft education revealed in Crafts Council research earlier in the year. Numbers of students taking craft-related GCSEs fell 25 per cent between 2007 and 2012. During the same period, numbers of craft courses in higher education dropped by 46 per cent. 

Participation in further education dropped equally dramatically and apprenticeship figures in craft remain tiny. With investment in studying craft, art and design increasing elsewhere around the globe, it is critical that we safeguard the future of craft education in the UK. 

Developed by the Crafts Council with experts from craft and education, the manifesto sets out actions to address these worryingly sharp declines.

Importantly education in and through craft is essential. Not only for young people who will go on to become leading makers and designers (the Thomas Heatherwicks and Tom Dixons of the future) but is vital also for the creativity, problem solving, ingenuity and skill that employers seek in fields as diverse as engineering, technology, medicine and film.

Safeguarding craft skills for the future

Numbers of students taking craft-related GCSEs fell 25 per cent between 2007 and 2012.

At yesterday’s launch, Crafts Council chair, Professor Geoffrey Crossick introduced the five top-level manifesto calls. They are:

  • To put craft and making at the heart of education.
  • Build more routes into craft careers.
  • Bring craft enterprise into education.
  • Invest in skills throughout careers.
  • Promote world-class higher education and research in craft.

Underpinning those calls are a set of specific actions, with the emphasis on what we (makers, businesses, educators, and Government) can all do together to make a change.  

At the launch, Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt, MP for Stoke-on-Trent, emphasised the value of practical education, describing the manifesto as ‘enormously important for all parties’. Like fellow MP Caroline Dinengage, who focused on bringing businesses and schools together to inspire future generations, Hunt fully endorsed the manifesto. 

They are in good company, with over 90 signatories backing the manifesto in a letter to the Times, including Sir Terence Conran, broadcasters Kirstie Allsopp and Kevin McCloud, University of the Arts Vice-Chancellor Nigel Carrington, and Aardman co-founder Peter Lord.

As Professor Crossick emphasised, the launch of the manifesto is just the beginning. Now the real work begins, and it can only be done by all of us working together, in partnership as we are, for example, with the Craft Apprenticeship Trailblazer. The future is indeed in the making: it’s in our hands.

Download the Craft Council's manifesto 'Our Future is in the Making'.


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