“When the Prime Minister asked me to become Secretary of State for Education I was overjoyed. I had long felt that the education of our youngsters was in the hands of a bunch of arty-farty namby pambies and that it needed sorting out pdq.
Let me make this perfectly clear, I have nothing against Art or Drama, Dance or Music, but my own education (and my academic qualifications speak for themselves) was thankfully free of such pastimes. They were, as they should be, optional. For example, everybody knows that only a very small percentage of people can draw, and that’s fine, but it is unfair and counterproductive to force all pupils to study perspective, shading, cross – hatching etc., when they could and should be honing their arithmetical skills.
Consequently, I have made certain alterations to our National Curriculum and now really important subjects will take their rightful places in the hierarchy of our teaching and learning strategies. All the arty stuff will be optional. This will achieve two important objectives. Firstly, it will ensure that all pupils will gain a sound grounding in Maths, Science, English, History (preferably English) Geography and Divinity, whilst optional Arts subjects will provide relaxing time and facilities for any pupils who disrupt or who cannot cope with core subjects.
Of course, Head Teachers are the final arbiters here and some may feel that their finances are such that they cannot provide these optional pastimes. So be it. Nevertheless, English schools have a long tradition of after-hours clubs and I can see Art, Dance, Drama and Music clubs springing into life in our schools nationwide, run by our traditionally dedicated teachers. Let me stress that I see absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of painting. It is an excellent hobby. It is relaxing, and provides perhaps, fertile mental ground in which the seeds of long multiplication may take root.”