Government push for EBacc “sidelines creative education”, says arts chief

The Department for Education has confirmed plans for 90% of students in state-run schools to take the English Baccalaureate qualification by 2025, which campaigners say leaves “no room” for art and design.

© Tony Baggett

The Government has confirmed that 90% of GCSE students will take the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) qualification by 2025, a move which the arts industry says will “devalue and sideline” creative education.

The EBacc makes it compulsory for GCSE students to take double qualifications in science and English, maths, a humanity such as history or geography, and a language, which takes up seven of a potential nine or 10 GCSE options.

Some schools require pupils to sit a triple qualification in science, meaning the EBacc would take up eight GCSE spots.

In its latest consultation report released this week, the Government has set out plans that 75% of GCSE pupils in state-run schools should choose EBacc subjects by 2022, and 90% by 2025.

Students can take additional subjects, says Government

It reads: “The Government is committed to ensuring that all students have access to an excellent, well-rounded education.

“The EBacc, while comprehensive, still enables pupils to continue to study additional subjects that reflect their individual interests and strengths, including the arts subjects.”

“Trend towards devaluing creative subjects”

But organisations including the Creative Industries Federation and campaign group Bacc for the Future have argued that the decision will prevent pupils studying a “broad and balanced curriculum” as there will be “no room” to study arts or creative subjects. Parents who were consulted have also expressed similar concerns.

“This response continues the Government trend towards devaluing creative subjects, which threatens the growth of the creative industries,” says John Kampfner, CEO at the Creative Industries Federation.

“Government is continuing to pursue a policy that is ill thought through and short-termist, in spite of its claims to want to boost productivity and life chances,” he adds.

“The creative industries have been identified as one of five priority sectors in the industrial strategy… however the Department for Education has [continued] to sideline creative education in favour of academic subjects.”

46,000 fewer students taking design in 2017

Government figures revealed last month show that the number of GCSE students taking art and creative subjects dropped by 46,000 between 2016 and 2017. This includes art and design; design and technology; drama; media, film and TV; music; and performing and expressive arts.

Among these, design and technology took the biggest hit, with 19,000 fewer students taking the subject in 2017, followed by art and design at 7,500.

Overall, entries for EBacc subjects increased by 9% while entries for non-EBacc subjects decreased by 11%.

A report from the Warwick Commission of Cultural Values also previously found that teaching hours for design and technology decreased by 11% between 2010 and 2015.

“No evidence” to link drop in design with EBacc

The Government argues that the EBacc provides “the right foundation for the vast majority of pupils”, and that the qualification will give them “access to the tools that will help them to get on in life”.

It also says that there is “no evidence” that the number of students taking design and technology has decreased as a result of the EBacc, adding that numbers “have been falling since 2008/9”, before the EBacc was introduced. The qualification was first introduced in 2010.

It adds that, in 2016, EBacc schools entered almost the same percentage of pupils for arts subjects as non-EBacc schools, at roughly 49%.

Read the Government consultation in full here.

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