‘Worrying’ drop in arts A level entries

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Campaigners blame impact of Ebacc

Latest figures show a 15% drop in the number of students taking performing and expressive arts at A level.

And there’s also been a fall in entries to drama A level.

Detailed analysis of the A level results just announced show that  the number of students sitting performing arts A levels, including dance, fell from 2,573 in 2015 to 2,179 this year. Drama A level entries dropped by 6.4% from 13,226 last year to 12,373 this year.

It also reveals that England saw a higher drop in students sitting performing arts A level than the UK average, down 17.5%. There have also been decreases in the number of pupils across the UK taking music and a 33.4 per cent drop in pupils taking art and design subjects at AS.

Michael Turner, director general of the Joint Council for Qualifications said the “reason why some subjects have declined by a greater proportion than others cannot fully be explained by the data”. However, he added that “whether students have prior experience of a subject from having studied it at GCSE may be a factor”.

Campaigners have blamed the drop in entries to arts subjects on the introduction of Ebacc, which leaves arts subjects out of the core GCSE curriculum. Deborah Annetts, campaign coordinator for the Bacc for the Future campaign, said “If this pattern continues, we will start to see the effects in our creative industries as the route to progression inevitably narrows. We simply cannot afford for this to happen.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of headteachers’ union NAHT said creative subjects had been hit hard. “This is something we need to watch carefully in future years as a continuing decline may be partly due to the impact of the EBacc at GCSE, where little room for additional subject choices means students can be limited in their choices at this higher level.”

Lesley Butterworth, general secretary of the National society for Education in Art and Design (NSEAD) said, “The society remains highly concerned but unsurprised at the continued and significant decline in AS and A-Level numbers for art and design in 2016. The 33.4% drop at AS particularly exposes the corrosive fault lines in the EBacc on the arts subjects.”


But Nick Gibb, minister for school standards, claimed, “AS and A-level statistics do not tell the whole story. Many students do not take academic qualifications in the arts but nevertheless continue to enjoy taking part in the arts, in school and out, he added that the government had invested £460 million since 2012 to increase access to the arts.

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