School targets ‘put creative 
lessons at risk’

Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu.
Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu.
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schools are under pressure to sacrifice “imaginative” education and extra-curricular activities in order to meet inflexible targets, according to the Archbishop of York.

John Sentamu, the second most senior member of the Church of England, warned that creative subjects such as music are at risk of being squeezed out in primary schools because of a need to fit in extra lessons.

In an opinion article published on, Dr Sentamu said that the Church had asked some of their 4,700 headteachers the challenges their schools are facing.

“Shrinking budgets and teacher recruitment featured, but many were concerned that they felt under pressure to sacrifice the most imaginative opportunities that school could offer, in favour of meeting inflexible measures,” he said.

“That could mean subjects such as music and PE being squeezed out in primary schools or pastoral time restricted to make way for extra tuition.

“Too many children are missing out on the chance to learn through wider and extra-curricular experiences which provide the kind of learning opportunities needed to foster positive mental well-being and personal growth.”

Dr Sentamu also said that schools are “shaping the values and virtues of our society in the future”, and pupils need to learn skills such as how to treat each other.

“One of the key things I took from the EU referendum last year and the way the campaign developed was that we can only flourish as a country if we can live well together.

“Nowhere is that message more important than in our schools – where our school leaders are shaping the values and virtues of our society in the future.

“We need an education system that works for the whole of society and not just for individuals.

“Our children learn just as much out of the classroom as they do in it.

“The way we treat each other when we disagree, how we work out our differences and how we apologise when we hurt each other – not to mention how we learn about service to each other – all of these things are vital for our future as a country, and they are learned in the playground, in the corridor and in the lunch hall as well as in the classroom.

“Make no mistake – the attainment that we measure through exams is crucial for securing the future of young people.

“But exams have to be seen in a wider context and as part of an education which allows young people to flourish.”

He said that during his six-month Pilgrimage of Prayer, Witness and Blessing in the Diocese of York last year, he visited 148 schools, including nursery pre-schools, primary, secondary and sixth form colleges.

He said that it was a ‘privilege to see so much excellent teaching and learning’.

He said ‘extraordinary teachers are there to prepare our children and young people to thrive not only in school, but in local communities and beyond’ and said he would help launch the Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership, focused on educating for wisdom, hope, community and dignity.

The Foundation will be launched tomorrow and is intended to help future leaders who will share the Church’s vision for education.