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Ofsted’s Amanda Spielman defends arts training comments in face of criticism

Ofsted's Amanda Spielman Ofsted's Amanda Spielman
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Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman has defended her comments about further education arts courses, and has claimed she did not disparage the importance of studying creative subjects.

Spielman came under fire from figures including actors Amanda Abbington and Mark Gatiss after she said arts and media courses risked giving false hope to students because of the “mismatch between the number of students taking the courses and the employment prospects at the end”.

Gatiss called her words “chilling and ghastly”, while Abbington urged anyone wishing to pursue a career in the arts to ignore Spielman’s comments.

In a letter to The Stage, Spielman has clarified her comments and argued that arts subjects have practical value in their own right. She criticised the fact they are “too often being squeezed out of school curriculums”.

She said: “I want to make sure that we are fair to these young people, and do not use the glamour of jobs that they are very unlikely ever to attain to encourage them down a path that could turn out to be a dead end.”

Amanda Spielman’s letter in full

Since you picked up the story, many of your readers have been climbing on rather high horses on Twitter to slay the evil dragon of Ofsted, which has supposedly disparaged the importance of studying arts and media subjects.

It may disappoint you, then, to know that I did nothing of the sort. In fact, I have repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that creative and practical subjects are valuable in their own right, and too often being squeezed out of school curriculums.

What I did point out is a finding from our recent survey of Level 2 study programmes, which are a set of relatively low level further education courses taken mainly by students who have done less well at school. Colleges recruit considerable numbers of students to courses in arts and media, yet they also say that these courses are the ones from which their students are least likely to progress to jobs in the same sector. The level of mismatch is very clear, and has been acknowledged by the Association of Colleges’ chief executive.

I want to make sure that we are fair to these young people, and do not use the glamour of jobs that they are very unlikely ever to attain to encourage them down a path that could turn out to be a dead end. With a family member who spent more than a decade as a frequently under-employed actor, I have seen at close quarters quite what a demoralising experience that can be.

Amanda Spielman
Chief Inspector, Ofsted

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