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by Tom Freeman
16 July 2015
Can One Direction save the UK?

Can One Direction save the UK?

Learning about boyband One Direction helps us understand what being British means. That’s the conclusion of UK Education secretary Nicky Morgan, who gives a speech to the Creative Industries Federation today.

"Because from Purcell to Shakespeare, St Paul's Cathedral to the Angel of the North, from the Beatles to Banksy to One Direction, this small island county has, throughout its history, punched well above its weight as the cultural capital of the world,” she is expected to say.

Teaching of the arts is an essential element of learning, then, and access to it a "matter of social justice" according to Morgan, rejecting the notion the Government sees the arts subjects as less important than maths and science.

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Horse whisperer - framing values around nationality at school

Is a Scottish quango game of thrones holding our media back?

Brave words, but away from the ears of creative types governments of all nations across the UK are looking for ways to attract more people into the subjects which will plug the country’s considerable skills gaps, and they aren't in the creative industries.

Indeed, as recently as November Morgan was lambasting advice given to school children making their subject choices a decade ago.

“If you didn’t know what you wanted to do… then the arts and the humanities were what you chose because they were useful, we were told, for all kinds of jobs,” she said.

“We now know that this couldn’t be further from the truth. That the subjects to keep young people’s options open are STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths.”

The arts have been excluded from the GCSE core subjects in England. They have moved down the priority list. Scottish teachers say budgets for arts departments are being squeezed in Scotland too.

What’s today’s change of tune by Morgan all about then? Perhaps it relates to the new guidance for schools in England which says they have a duty to embed “British values”.

So cultural education is to stop extremism, and yes, it’s to save the union.

“Without that understanding of our cultural contribution, without an inspiring and eye-opening cultural education, it is impossible to truly understand what being British means and to appreciate the ties that bind us,” Morgan is expected to say later.

Because nothing screams the timeless grandeur of this former empire like the One Direction lyrics “Baby you light up my world like nobody else, The way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed, But when you smile at the ground it ain't hard to tell, You don't know, oh oh, You don't know you're beautiful.”

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