Author Philip Pullman: UK ‘Ruled By Barbarians’

Sky News
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Award-winning author Philip Pullman has told Sky News he believes the Government is being run by philistines and barbarians.

His comments were in response to fears that the new English Baccalaureate (EBacc), which is being phased in from September, may lead to a decline in the arts.

The EBacc’s core GCSE subjects are English, maths, science, a language and history or geography.

From 2020, schools will be judged by the GCSE scores Year 11 students achieve in the core subjects, but others like art, music and drama, will not be included.

Their exclusion prompted the His Dark Materials author to defend the arts, saying they are essential to what made people human.

Mr Pullman said: “Every government secretary of state or minister should jolly well go to the theatre, go to a concert, go to an art gallery, go to a museum, become somehow interested in these things.

“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.

“The arts are beyond price, they’re beyond value, they’re of incalculable worth in what it means to be a human being.”

Last year Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said teenagers should steer away from the arts and humanities and opt for maths or science subjects if they wanted access to the widest range of jobs.

And over the last five years there has already been a drop in applicants to arts subjects.

Between 2010 and 2015 the number of pupils continuing with art and design at A-level dropped by 3%.

Media studies, meanwhile, was taken by 15% fewer students, the number taking drama was down by 20% and there was a drop of 22% in the number of pupils taking music.

The creative industries generate around £76bn and some worry a continuing decline in these subjects will harm the economy.

The Government insists it takes the arts seriously.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “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.”

Nida Broughton, chief economist at the Social Market Foundation, said she agrees that core subjects give pupils the best prospects overall.

She said: “Maths and science are really important and they’re the ones that get you the top paying jobs, but I think what’s really important to realise is that those subjects aren’t just important for the traditional sectors you might think – science and engineering – they’re really important across the wider economy as well.”

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