Free schools group says arts bodies have misunderstood effect of EBacc

A new report claims that arts organisations concerns about the impact of EBacc on arts subjects at secondary schools is misplaced.

The New Schools Network, which supports the free schools movement, says the numbers of pupils taking at least one arts subjects at GCSE has risen from 44.7% in 2012 to 48% in 2016.

The report analysed entries for art and design, dance, drama, expressive and performing arts, media and music, but not design and technology. It looked at the Department for Education’s (DfE) annual key stage 4 subject and qualification data releases for the five academic years from 2011-12 to 2015-16.

However the figures also show that the number of teachers and contact hours dedicated to those subjects have fallen.

New Schools Network chief executive Toby Young said that the claim that EBacc was stifling interest in arts subjects had been “put to rest” by their new analysis of data. He urged arts organisations to support arts education in schools by setting up free schools dedicated to the arts.

However, the NSN report added that the government “must shoulder some of the blame for this misunderstanding and should do more to signal its enthusiasm for arts education.”

But others criticised the report. A spokesman for EBacc to the Future, an umbrella group of arts and education organisations, said that recent changes to the EBacc regime, which required all secondary school pupils to take the five core subjects, excluding arts  would have more impact.

“There is clear evidence that the EBacc is having a negative impact on the uptake of arts subjects. Since the new EBacc proposals were launched in 2015, we have seen a decline in the proportion of pupils taking at least one arts subject.”


She added, “We urge the Secretary of State for Education to read and listen to the 2,759 consultation responses, head teachers, 200+ creative industry and education bodies, and 100,000+ individuals who are seeing the harmful impact of the EBacc on subjects of the future, like music and design, on a daily basis. The economy of the future will be built on creativity and enterprise and – post-Brexit – this commitment is even more important.’


Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said that less than 40 per cent of pupils in a cohort were taking the EBacc, far short of the government’s 90 per cent target, meaning “we have not yet seen the full impact of this policy.”

A recent poll of secondary school leaders showed that nearly 80 per cent of them believed that the EBacc had a negative impact on the curriculum they offered in their school.


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