Welcome to the website of Susan M. Coles, Artist & Arts, Creativity & Educational Consultant.

Posted in Education Education Education

I really feel I need to start another campaign, following on from Rainbow for Mister Gove and the Letter for Mr Laws campaigns. It’s like an itch that I have to scratch and, I’m feeling really itchy right now. I also wanted to offer a focus for people after speaking at the fantastic Royal Opera House Bridge Conference “Ahead for Culture” and after hearing Darren Henley’s (CEO Arts Council England) maiden speech recently. I am also impressed that there were messages of support for arts education at the Northern Rocks Education Festival.

Ahead for Culture #AheadForCulture

Darren’s speech or watch it at
#culture matters

I want to get as many people involved as I possibly can, and I firmly believe that the social media and Internet platforms can help to do this. I need you to join me in a collective voice that protests strongly about the marginalisation of the Arts in education, which result from government educational policies.

So, a little context is needed. Last week, Nick Gibb (Schools Minister) made this speech:

And I will take this one quote to test your reaction: “It has also been suggested that our emphasis on academic subjects in the national curriculum, and especially the introduction of the EBacc, ‘crowds out’ the study of other important subjects, particularly the arts. We should acknowledge that the curriculum always involves trade-offs: more time on one subject means less time on others. Over the years, I’ve been asked to add scores of subjects – from intellectual property, to Esperanto, to den building – to the national curriculum. Many of these are important and interesting.
The question, though, is always whether they are sufficiently important to justify reducing the time available for the existing subjects in the curriculum, and I make no apology for protecting space for the English Baccalaureate subjects wherever possible.

From my own personal point of view, I am incensed to hear that the Arts can be seen as a trade off and I find many of his comments and arguments anachronistic and ill informed. But, that’s me. How about you? What do you think when an ex chartered accountant (Nick Gibb) criticises the philosophy of Sir Ken Robinson (a lifelong educationalist)?

So, with all this in mind, I am launching #askNicky, a communications campaign, where those who feel strongly about what’s happening in Arts education (and will happen even more with a proposed compulsory English Baccalaureate) can write, tweet, etc. to the Secretary of State for Education, Mrs Nicky Morgan MP.

You might be thinking, why isn’t it called #askNick, and the answer is that Mr Gibb spent time at the DFE before and did not appear to be particularly receptive to different points of view, but Mrs Morgan did say (after her appointment in 2014) that “My task is about listening to what teachers are saying, and saying to them, ‘What can we do?’”

Well then Nicky, what you can do is this. Listen to us and start to answer our questions.

And let’s swamp her with messages, via Twitter, via the Royal Mail. Postcards, letters, tweets. Using that hashtag #askNicky and tagging in @NickyMorgan01 (and if you like, you can tag in @NickGibbMP).

Don’t get angry or be offensive either, be intelligent and inspired, create powerful questions and messages. If you really believe in something then you have to make sure you stand up for and share that belief. Our young people will face a life at school, which doesn’t offer them the choices that the world does and doesn’t offer them the skills that the future wants. And, most of all, we should be asking if it will offer them the kind of curriculum that will inspire them to learn, nurture them, and allow them to flourish as individuals? We need to affect change for them. They deserve it.

There is some reading that will help you to form your questions, because asking informed questions is a key part of this campaign.
Starting with ImagineNation by the Cultural Learning Alliance
You can also look at recent statistics for uptake of Arts in schools here
And also here (Art, Craft and Design)

You should really look at the Warwick Commission Report
as this will help you to pose important questions such as “Why is the English educational system not focussing on the future needs of the Cultural and Creative Industries and the broader needs for innovation and growth in the UK?”

Read NSEAD’s letter to Mrs Morgan
Read the Artists Union statement on Art education
Read the letter to Nicky Morgan, written by the International Society for Education through Art (InSEA)

Plus- why not have a read through the November 2014 debate in the House of Lords?

And you can do your bit, you really can. We can’t just sit here and look aghast, we need to use our intelligent voices to raise the counter arguments and question their own claims, and to remind Nick Gibb that he has said he would like to consult with people- “We will listen closely to the views of teachers, headteachers, and parents on how best to implement this commitment. And we will ensure that schools have adequate lead-in time to prepare for any major changes.” That’s too short a list for people to be listening to though, so let’s just all get involved.

So, if Nick and Nicky are prepared to listen- surely we have to ask some questions and let them know what our thoughts are.
Here is my plan:
Follow #askNicky on Twitter, and add your questions using that hashtag, follow me for updates @theartcriminal, join our Facebook page
for both discussions and sharing your letters and postcards (photograph them before you post them), and ask as many questions as you can between NOW and the end of the parliament, which is the 21st July. A constant drip feed is the best approach, because there is nothing to stop you writing or tweeting as many times as you want.

Teachers why not involve your own students in writing their questions on the postcards and then post them all in one envelope? Student voice, persuasive letter writing, literacy, understanding importance of the Arts, understanding their right to protest in a democracy- blimey…. but what great cross curricular links!

Headteachers and senior leaders share your voices and concerns. Please. We need your strong voices.

Arts departments and Organisations print out the cards and spend part of a meeting time writing your questions and then put them into an envelope and post.

Here are the template postcards, a poster, and some address labels. GO GO GO !!!!!



3324 days ago

Fantastic work Susan. X

Kelly T

3324 days ago

Great. I’m always too busy to campaign and I know I need to but you are making me feel that I can and making it easy for me and making me feel valued. Thank you.

Craig Bell

3324 days ago

Oh yes, I can see this being part of our literacy hour next week- writing letters! Children love their art and we need to make sure they get access to it all the way through schooling.


3324 days ago

Fab work, Sue. Tweeting and copied stuff from Dropbox.

Douglas Anderson

3323 days ago

We all need a bit of a push sometimes. No point just grumbling – already started composing first PC.


3323 days ago

Excellent work Susan. Thanks for the collected sources. A great place to start.
Will circulate.


3322 days ago

Thank you, thank you, thank you Susan for your wise words, motivation and instinct to wake us all up again after the post election slump. Thank you for defending our children’s right to creative action and expression. As a mum, artist, facilitator and believer in the power of creativity, thank you!


3320 days ago

Thanks for all the support and thanks for your questions online or via Royal Mail. This is very much in the news and it is brilliant to see so much open discussion happening on the web.

John Steers

3314 days ago

Excellent work Susan – of course I am on side….

Emma Probets

3309 days ago

I don’t understand the dichotomy in Education of differentiating academic subjects and ‘non academic’ subjects. We should be valuing each individual and valuing creativity as the application of academic knowledge.

Louise Gill

3308 days ago

Need a giant postcard to express all the values of Art and Design….

Jeremy Nicholls

3306 days ago

To quote Nicky Morgan in her recent speech at King Solomon Academy (16th June): “And let me make it crystal clear, this isn’t because I think the that the arts subjects are in anyway less good or in any way less valuable…” – Yes you do Nicky! If you really mean what you say – include the arts, and design technology subjects in the e-bacc! Don’t continue to undermine the arts in our schools, you are compounding the damage caused by your predecessor.

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