Who forgot about art?

Naomi Clarke


Do Scottish and English teachers believe the curriculum allows little time for students' individual creativity? Why is there a greater need for art in Scotland than in England? How have differing curricula affected school and teachers' interpretations of art? These questions formed the basis of research conducted in a comparative study of selected Scottish and English Secondary Schools' heads of Art, with responses by questionnaire. This article explores the differences between the two curricula's control and shaping of art by the guidelines it proposes art teachers follow. The article is structured into sections. Initially, it analyses the questionnaires returned. It then assesses, through a discussion of some of the respondents' comments, how art is hindered by art and design governing policies. Finally, it compares how the English and Scottish curricula interact with teachers' interpretations thereof to restrict creativity in art education.

What happens in school and what children learn is now more open to public scrutiny than ever before. The increase in testing, statutory requirements and test results being published has caused increasing numbers of people to turn their interest to what occurs in education. Arguably, the most important players are politicians and political parties, the various organisations representing teachers (associations, educational theorists, unions etc) and, of course teachers. All these groups have specific agenda that they seek to promote when planning the curriculum. It is the content and structure 1 of the school curriculum that tends to reflect the influences of the relative power and a clear signalling of priorities.

It has been argued that 'a thing seen is more vivid than a thing read' 2 . However, through league tables and curricula we have neglected our eyes for an education of words. This report does not advocate art education as an alternative to literacy and numeracy, but as equally relevant for children's education. One supports the recognition of the government and the majority of educators for high standards of literacy and numeracy. The study addresses concerns about the balance and priorities of education by questioning heads of art from Scotland and England about their value of art and whether their interpretations of the curriculum hinder the status of art.

Definition of National Curriculum
The National Curriculum outlines the curricula to which State schools are required to adhere until students reach 14. The National Curriculum was introduced to all state schools to secure an entitlement to a number of key areas of learning for all students, who receive a breadth of knowledge, given that it consists of ten different subjects. These subjects are divided into Core: English, Maths and Science, and Foundation: Art & Design, D&T, Geography, History, ICT, Music, PE and RE. 3

The National Curriculum clearly signals its priority in the distinction between 'core' and 'foundation' subjects. This is reinforced by the National test system, which only judges schools' performance by the achievements of students in the core subjects. Though art is a foundation subject, it still has an important role to play as it is believed 'it will serve a worthwhile purpose' 4 .

Government policies like the National Curriculum influence how art is interpreted by schools, parents and society. There is growing concern, revealed in Her Majesty's Annual Report (2004/5) 5 , that the National Curriculum is the reason why art is not valued in school. It revealed plans for the art curriculum had narrowed whilst the range of art, craft and design in the majority of schools remains limited. The report also suggests that the position of art is somewhat 'tenuous in the academic environment' 6 and fails to sustain the interests of particular groups, including the academically able. Even with the revival of the arts in schools and the government's new emphasis on creativity, as promoted in Sir Ken Robinson's report 7 All our futures: Creativity, Culture and Education (1999) 8 , uncertainty about art and its place in the National Curriculum remains. This is suggested as Robinson commented, 'the trouble is that the educational system isn't designed to promote the arts or innovative thinking that we need' 9 .

Definition of the Scottish Curriculum
Unlike England, Scotland prescribes no National Curriculum, but proposes 'recommendations' 10 that students study a core curriculum of all subjects. Indeed, a former government threatened to introduce legislation to ensure core subjects were included in the curriculum, if not already planned. As the Nuffield Review (2003) 11 commented, 'the Scottish Curriculum is defacto a "national" one, but it is more flexible than the English Curriculum and less encumbered by regulation and accountability mechanism' 12 .

The Scottish secondary system is split into two programmes: the 5-14 Curriculum and Standard Grade 14-16 . Education authorities and head teachers are responsible for the management and delivery of the 5-14 Curriculum. It is the head teacher who is accountable for monitoring the overall balance and attention to each curriculum area. Therefore, students should be assured of opportunities to progress in all areas of the curriculum based on the individual needs of the school. Standard Grade is shaped by underlying principles based on the ideology of the MUNN Committee in 1977 13 . It was designed so all students could follow 'a broad based curriculum' 14 , and this breadth and balance has remained highly prominent. Schools are expected to structure their option systems to ensure all subjects are covered. However, with there being nine core areas, there is a limited timetable that students can choose, especially when the Secretary of State (1983) requested that 'overriding priority was given to English, Science and Maths' 15 .

The Scottish Parliament was established in 1999. Before hand, as the Nuffield Review suggests, Scotland had substantial autonomy over the administration of 'Scottish education, provided that it did not overtly challenge the direction of the UK Government.' 16 Without this autonomy, the emphasis in England on an academic subject-based curriculum may have swayed the Scottish education programme. The launching of a national debate in Scotland on education in 2002 for 'less emphasis on academic subject-based curriculum' 17 further highlights the present differences between the priorities and values in Scotland and England.

Art is placed under the Expressive arts (Art, PE, Drama and Music) as one of the five broad subject areas in the 5-14 curricula . The Expressive arts guidelines state how art 'plays an important part in pupils' development' 18 . At Standard Grade , students study a core curriculum of all subjects including Creative and Aesthetic activities (Art and Design, drama and Music) 19 . There is a minimum allocation of 80 hours for Creative and Aesthetic activities, whereas 15 per cent 20 is the entitlement for students studying the Expressive arts. As illustrated, a number of more specific subjects are grouped under each heading. Therefore, the allocations of 15 per cent and 80 hours are not just for art but also up to four other subjects. In comparison, Maths and English alone have 35 per cent of the timetable. It appears certain that areas of knowledge and understanding, notably the aesthetic, are underrepresented in both Scottish programmes.

It is believed that art has or should have a secure, unchallenged and central place in the school curriculum regardless of whether Scottish or English. However, there is a view that the place of art in both programmes' timetable could be edged out because the government exerts pressure on schools to excel in the key areas. Is art being devalued not only in English schools but Scottish schools too?

Research Method

The purpose of the research was to understand and estimate art's position in the school systems of England and Scotland. A series of questions were designed to investigate and identify this intention in the form of a questionnaire. The questions were categorised into four areas ranging from the general to the specific, namely; Practice- general ethos of classrooms and annual art budgets; the Curriculum - each respondent's opinions of their present curriculum's; Factors- elements that affect art in education: other subjects, parents, academic credentials and timetables; and Knowledge- teachers' knowledge about other school systems. Some questions intentionally overlapped categories to determine teachersí views. The questions were designed to provide a comparative picture of art practise in Scotland and England. The questionnaire contained a number of open questions to encourage free response and an opportunity for individual remarks.

Two separate questionnaires were designed to accommodate the different terminology teachers use in their education, including 'National Curriculum', 'Scottish curriculum', '5-14 curriculum' and 'Creative and Aesthetic activities,' to match the appropriate system. The Scottish questionnaire consists of five more questions than the English version because of the intentions conveyed in the abstract. The questionnaires were issued in October 2005 and were analysed in January 2006 21 .

Study Participants

25 Scottish and 25 English teachers were invited to take part in the study, selected from previous dealings with the author. Participants were sent a letter explaining the authorís intentions and a questionnaire. There was a 60 per cent return rate of 30 teachers (England -13, Scotland-17). The sample comprised of all heads of department and 17 women and 13 men. All the teachers were in full time posts in schools of between 200 and 1,900 students.

(See bottom of article for link to List of Participants)

Respondentsí comments

Evidence from the questionnaires was analysed based on the four previously mentioned categories.

The most common pattern across the questionnaires was the ethos of the art classroom. 81 per cent of both sample groups described the art room as busy and active. The art room is different to most other classrooms in the school. The door is mostly left open and work is not limited to the four walls of the classroom. The classroom needs to be a place not of authoritarian control but where children's curiosity is indulged and independent learning materialises. 59 per cent of schools allowed music to be played in their art classroom. Where else can pupils work with music? This, though, adds a danger of isolation. It is important that there be an understanding to advocate the role of art and the contribution it makes to students' personal development and other areas of learning.

The questionnaires indicate that the contribution of art across the curriculum is limited. Students may value art, but if there is little connection made with other subjects, it is not surprising that the Annual Report found numbers of students taking art falling drastically 22 . More needs to be done to transform the relationship of art in school because there is little articulation about the role of visual learning.

Ofsted reported the most effective art departments owe their success heavily to the communication and leadership skills of the heads of department, and their interaction with members of staff 23 . There must be colleagues who want to create a good comprehensive school. Therefore, art teachers need to actively enter the process of integrating art across the curriculum. By adopting an integrated curriculum, teachers would be able to connect subjects and illuminate important topics and experiences between areas. Additionally, integrated approaches could stimulate new forms of cognition, and assist students in linking their learning.

Surprisingly, 75 per cent of English participants included art as a means for cross-curriculum activities, whilst only 47 per cent of Scottish schools did. Upon further investigation, it was mostly Music that collaborated with both English and Scottish art departments. This is clearly not art integrating into the core academic curriculum. Though the English respondents utilise art as an interventionist to work with other subject areas, they still feel art is not a valued subject. One would assume by working across the curriculum, there would be raised awareness of art in schools and an improved relationship with other subjects. However, the Scottish schools seem not to need art to work across the curriculum to be regarded as a serious subject. Training residential courses and projects like the Chicago model have been set up by the Scottish Art Council to encourage links between different areas of learning and erode subject barriers 24 . According to English art teachers, this move to circulate art within the curriculum has not improved the status of art in relation to other subjects.Perhaps English teachers could benefit from following the Scottish example and actively encouraging the promotion of art in other areas of the curriculum.

These pilot projects to integrate art in the curriculum indicate the Scottish educational process itself is changing. There is a growing understanding of the ways in which children learn. It seems recognition of the importance of art and other motivational subjects is steadily improving in schools.

The Curriculum

78 per cent of Scottish and 66 per cent English teachers agreed their present curriculum served the students. However, English teachers were undecided (50:50) in their responses to whether their curriculum recognised and encouraged the importance of art. Contrastingly, 86 per cent of Scottish teachers believed that their curriculum valued the importance of art. Although the government has reintroduced creativity into English schools, art's importance in planning the school curriculum has not yet been recognised. It is not surprising that with the pressures of the school day, there is little time to organise opportunities for delight. According to a nationwide survey, it is easier to sideline the arts because 'English head teachers are struggling to fit art into a crowded National Curriculum' 25 . This seems to correspond to the English respondents' views that the curriculum is not serving art enough.

Though 88 per cent of Scottish teachers generally agreed that the curriculum served and encouraged the importance of art, there was a varied attitude towards the curriculum itself. One respondent commented:

The art curriculum in this school has a significant role to play, many pupils are involved post s2.

However, another stated:

I regret to say that recent changes in certification from the Scottish qualifications authority are damaging this valued feature.

Additionally, only 57 per cent of Scottish teachers agreed that there is more flexibility in the curriculum because there are no enforced laws as there are in England. This is similar to English teachers' response, with only 58 per cent agreeing that the National Curriculum restrains freedom and flexibility to deliver art. This suggests that both English and Scottish teachers do not blame the enforced laws or statutory requirements of the National Curriculum for sidelining art.

Furthermore, only 58 per cent of English respondents agreed that it was the pressure of the curriculum that allows little time for students' individual creativity. Scottish teachers were undecided (50:50).

Though some argue that the art teacher needs 'strong conviction on the value and place of his subject' 26 , surely they need support from their establishment and colleagues in order to work in unison. There was a mixture of responses on a scale of low, medium and high as to how other subject departments in schools rate art. Some appeared even unsure and hesitant, for example:



I believe art is seen by most departments/staff as a god given talent which can be taught or developed. I also believe art is seen as a luxury with little practical value.


Varies-too much of the timetable is devoted to meeting university needs.
This dept. is admired by the rest of the school for its work and results but still suffers from the old prejudices.



Most subject areas think of art as an easy option as normally very good results and as an amusing past time.


If pressed, most perceive it as less important. Some individuals especially those with children at school think it is important.

They have to take it seriously because of our results.

Both Scottish and English teachers situated in the low ratings seem to accept art not being valued in their school. It is no surprise that art generally in the UK is not taken seriously if the burden lies on individual teachers to determine the fate of art. According to a psychologist, Barth (1990), teachers influence the role of art in their school. He argued 'teachers with strong feelings of efficacy around their practice are more likely to motivate students to join in and learn' 27.

Teachers' commitment and their involvement are essential for educational change. Psychologists argue it is the teacher's role to develop their subject. Fullan and Hargreaves' guidelines Interactive professionalism (1991) 28 express the need for teachers to be committed to working alongside colleagues and participating outside their department. In order to promote art, art teachers need to 'make sure their role extends beyond the classroom' 29 . This requires ongoing coordination, communication and negotiation to sustain and influence other colleagues to value art. If fellow colleagues devalue art, students may begin to perceive art as nothing but a thrill. As Freud believed, what one learns and appreciates in education is down to the 'educator' 30 .

One respondent commented that art still suffers from old prejudices. Is it these prejudices rather than the National Curriculum that sideline art? One clear prejudice is signalled from the dominance of the core subjects in both curricula. 92 per cent of the English sample group agreed that these subjects have an overriding priority to other areas of learning. 71 per cent of Scottish teachers also agreed this. There is clearly a difference between the respondents' perceived belief of the balance in the two curricula to accommodate all subject areas and not just those generally accepted as the most important.

Art is sometimes considered as an optional subject. Again, the results correspond with the previous answer. Though 78 per cent of English teachers agreed that some modes like art are considered to be more optional than other subjects, only 65 per cent of Scottish teachers felt the same. The future of art in the timetable depends on the capacity of those who teach art to argue their case. Any subject, not just art, can only develop if the school is favourable to it. They need to justify art's importance and often unique contributions it can make to childrenís learning. Scottish teachers do value their curriculum and, compared to the English system, allow breadth and time for all subjects.

Unsurprisingly, 83 per cent of English teachers argued the government's pressure on and expectations from schools to excel in academic credentials were limiting other areas of knowledge and understanding. Though other researchers have argued the time allocated to art 'has not expanded in Scotland' 31 , only 64 per cent of the Scottish sample agreed art is under threat with more time being devoted to skills such as literacy. It seems that what is considered important for children's learning south of the border are facts alone.

Unlike Scotland, there are no statutory time allocations for individual subject or curriculum areas in England 32 . There is only a compulsory statutory requirement at key stage 4. It has been argued that too much of the timetable is allocated to core subjects. Research for the NUT 33 shows more time is spent on Maths and English in schools compared to the arts due to schools' devotion to governmentís literacy and arithmetic strategies. Contrastingly, only 58 per cent of English teachers and 57 per cent of Scottish teachers felt the lack of timetable allocation was a constraint.

The involvement of parents in Scottish education is another factor that could explain why art is recognised as a valuable subject. 72 per cent of Scottish teachers disagreed that art was a subject resisted by parents and students. Conversely, 83 per cent of English teachers felt, on the whole, parents oppose some subjects and 75 per cent agreed art was one of these resisted subjects. It seems from involving Scottish parents in their children's education day by day, art is valued and established as a basic component in the curriculum and in schools. It appears art in England is resisted and parents do not view it as either intrinsically valuable or even useful in acquiring skills to achieve success. If art in England is perceived by these respondents' colleagues as 'Cinderella' courses because of high grades, no wonder parents will oppose art. Unlike in England, Scottish art is held with the deserved respect for gaining successful grades.

In England, there is an expansion of other areas in the National Curriculum. Since 2004, the National Curriculum made ICT and Citizenship compulsory to teach across all subjects 34 . Again, 67 per cent of English respondents decided that art was delivered in less time, particularly with areas like Citizenship being expanded. However, 67 per cent of Scottish teachers disagreed that art is delivered in less time because of these expansions in the curriculum.


It was remarkable how many Scottish respondents commented how they had little knowledge of the English Curriculum, yet 64 per cent of these respondents commented that compared to English students, every child in Scotland has a meaningful, creative and aesthetic experience throughout their school career. 75 per cent of English teachers agreed that Scottish students enjoyed a more meaningful and creative experience compared to English students. However, one Scottish respondent argued it is not the case. He remarked:

Having worked in both sectors, I am not convinced that it is still the case. The system in Scotland is very much a lop down system. Iím with Sir Ken Robinson on this one!

Other Scottish respondents lauded the curriculum:

Scottish education has always prided itself in offering pupils a broad education.

The belief that the Scottish system has a higher regard for art is further indicated by one English respondent;

Öbecause they (Scottish) follow ideas on creativity not just produce papers to be ignored. Although the government (in England) has looked at creativity and the paper produced by the NFEE was superb in acknowledging the need for creativity; I have seen no changes. Middle and Primary schools do not teach art ëcreativityí at all. Pupils come to high school with little or no ability.

Another English respondent commented how generally the English experience is politically driven and not seen as a priority because in Scotland, there is 'less government interference perhaps and seem to always get the balance right.'


As all schools are different, there is a mixture of individual interpretations of the requirements of the curriculum, as discussed in this paper. The problem is that one size will not fit all, and no two children nor two schools are the same.

Though Scotland and England have a similar cultural, political and institutional heritage they nevertheless have different educational priorities and values. For example:
ï Scotland holds a greater acceptance of public purposes for education. An organisation will be set up as an independent body to allow parents a greater say in how their children are educated 35 . The Scottish Education Minister, Peter Peacock, wants to develop a high quality public education system in Scotland; whilst in England it seems that the crucial role parents' play in their childrenís success in education 'has only just been recognised by Ruth Kelly' 36 .
ï Scotland has a qualifications framework separate from that of England. A major perceived constraint on the curriculum in England is the public examination system, as teachers feel that the exams restricted the desirable scope, content and methodology of the course because they have to overemphasise an area that is being examined.

It is unlikely that the Scottish experience could be transferred south of the border. One cannot simply imitate other education systems, though one can learn from other countries.

England's imposition of a subject-based National Curriculum and the associated regime of testing and publishing league tables, means it has rendered the importance of art and spontaneity to the back of the classroom. Since devolution, there has been renewed attention to the philosophies of art education that had been neglected by many Scottish schools. From seeking to engage the wider public in debates about education, change has been embraced with far less emphasis placed on an academic subject-based curriculum.

Her Majestyís Annual Report (2004/5) conveyed how teachers are afraid to take risks, including where teachers are given every opportunity to take ownership of the curriculum. Teachers choose a curriculum which is prescriptive and dependent on the examination board requirements of achieving A*-C. However, in Scotland, there has been a move to abandon league tables 37 to ensure that breadth and depth for all remains a high priority for departments.

For art to maintain a place in the curriculum, teachers have to renegotiate regularly with colleagues, students and authorities in order to obtain timetable space, staffing and resources. Few teachers appreciate the possibilities of teaching through an art integrated system. Professional development in England is a critical necessity.

In Scotland, there is no assigned governor to art unlike in England. It is therefore the responsibility of the head of art to increase the level of funding for art in their school directly from their head, who controls the school budget. It is they who have to justify the need for creative potential in their students' learning, to gain status, resources, time and expertise for their department. In England, it is the governors who decide how money from the LEA is distributed among areas of the National Curriculum. Schools in Scotland are far more in the driver's seat than in England, where the LEAs and governors retain control.

Art programmes cannot thrive or even exist without adequate materials and supplies. These are as critical to art education as textbooks are to other subjects. The average Scottish annual budget from the sample was £3,896 compared to £4,490 in England. Though England seems to financially value art more compared to Scotland, the amounts were extreme, ranging from £1,000to £23,000 between schools. The funding allocated to art in Scotland was far more regulated across the sample group. The average spent on art resources per pupil per annum in the Scottish sample was £3.51, while only £2.40 was made available for English students. In a future study, it is hoped to compare annual budgets with other subject areas in secondary school. This will examine the differences of funding allocated and values of schools between academic and non-academic subjects in England and Scotland.

The study's comparisons do not indicate whether Scotland or England had a more positive view of learning and involment of art. However, the study can challenge English thinking by showing how Scotlandís different art values and priorities in schools have caused an increased sensitivity to art. From this study, it would be interesting to discover whether Scottish students naturally choose the core subjects even though they are not made to and whether they would pick art over these subjects.


1. Beck, J. & Earl, M. (2001) Key Issues in secondary school, Continuum, London, p.14.

2. Basset, R. (1968) The Open Eye in Learning: the role of art in General Education, the MIT press, London, p.7.

3. QCA Standards (online). Available from URL: www.ncactions.org.uk (Accessed 10th December 2005).

4. Marland, M. & Rogers, R. (2002) Managing the arts in the curriculum, Heinemann , Oxford, p.4.

5. Department of Education and Science. (2004/5) Her Majestyís Chief Inspector of Schools Annual Report, Her Majestyís Stationery Office, London, pp. 7- 9.

6. Marland, M. & Rogers, R.(2202) op. cit, p.1.

7. Sir Ken Robinson (online). Available from URL: www.principalvoices.com . (2005). He is an internationally renowned expert in the field of creativity and innovation in Education. In 1998 he was appointed by the British government to Chair the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural education. His inquiry into the importance of creativity in Education is available from the URL: www.dfes.gov.uk.naccce (PDFI adobe Acrobat required). (Accessed 17th March 2006).

8. National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education (NACCCE) (1999). All our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education, Report to the secretary of State for Education and Employment and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Nottingham: DfEE. Also available online from URL www.dfee.gov.uk/naccce/index1.shtml (Accessed 17th January 2005).

9. Sir Ken Robinson (2005).op. cit.

10. Scottish Office Education and Industry Department (SOEID) (1992) National Guidelines: Expressive Arts 5-14. Appendices: 4. Edinburgh: SOEID. Also available from URL: www.itscotland.org.uk (Accessed 21st December 2005).

11. Raffe, D. (2003) Nuffield Review of 14-19 Education and training working Paper 5. The aims of 14-19 Education: Learning from the Scottish experience. (Centre for Educational Sociology), University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, p.3.

12. Raffe, D. op, cit.

13. Available from URL: www.scottishpolicy.net.org.uk (Accessed 13th January 2006).

14. Croxford, L. (1997) The Shape of Secondary School Curriculum, Scottish Council for Research in Education (SCRE), Glasgow. Also available from URL: www.scre.ac.uk (Accessed 2006).

15. Available from URL: www.scottishpolicy.net.org.uk (Accessed 18th January 2006)

16. Raffe, D. op, cit, p.2.

17. ibid. p. 6.

18. SOEID(1992). op, cit, p.25.

19. Curtis, P. op, cit.

20. (ALA) (2005) Arts across the Curriculum Residential (AAC). (Online). Available from URL: www.scottisharts.org.uk. (Accessed 30th November 2006)

21. This is not funded research, the author carried out the study at times convenient between studio practice and the academic year(s).

22. Dept of Science and Education. op, cit, p10.

23. Oftsed Inspections (Sept 2003- April 2005) Art and Design in Secondary Schools. NFER, London. (Online) www.ofsted.gov.uk .

24. AAC. op, cit.

25. Hills, A. (2003) Schools Schedules sidelined the Arts, The Observer. Also available from URL: www.theobserver.co.uk/education/schoolwww.theobserver.co.uk/education/school. (Accessed 25th November 2005)

26. Vail, P.L. (1999) The World of the Gifted Child, Walker & Co. New York, p.76.

27. 27. Stoll, L. & Fink, D. (1997) Changing our Schools, Open University Press. London, pp.152-3.

28. ibid. p.160.

29. ibid. p.161.

30. Read, H. (1966) The Redemption of the Robot: My encounter with education through art. Trident Press. London, p. 36.

31. Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) (online) www.qca.org.uk .

32. Coutts, G. & Dougall, P. (2005) Drawing in Perspective: Scottish Art and Design Teaches Discuss Drawing. International Journal of Art & Design Education, Vol 24, No. 2, p.140.

33. National Union of Teachers (NUT) (Online) www.teachers.org.uk .

34. Curtis, P. (2002) Focus on 3rs ìNot pushing out arts.î The Guardian. Also available from URL: www.educationguardian.co.uk/school/story .

35. SOEID (1999) National Guidelines: Standard grade 14-19: Creative Aesthetics. Art and Design. (Online) www.itscotland.org.uk/14-19 .

36. SOEID (2000) 3.12 Time Allocation and pupil entitlement S1-S2: National Guidelines: The structure and balance of the Scottish Curriculum: 5-14. p. 16. Also available from URL: www.itscotland.org.u5to14/html/guidelines/saboc. (Accessed 21st February 2006).

37. Curtis, P. (2005) Scottish Parents to get greater say in Education. The Guardian. Also available from URL: www.educationguardian.co.uk/school/story. (Accessed 20th December 2005).


Study Participants

Example of questionnaire


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