Arts leaders step up EBacc campaign

100 signatures on letter to Prime Minister urging reversal of controversial school policy

The campaign against the downgrading of arts subjects in English schools continued this week with the delivery of a letter to Prime Minister Teresa May.

More than 100 leaders of arts instiutions have urged her to drop the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), scheme, which they warn is “damaging the quality of the education offered to pupils in England”.

Among the signatories are conductor Simon Rattle, new Tate Director Maria Balshaw and organisations such as Shakespeare’s Globe and UK Theatre.

In the letter, they say that the EBacc scheme, which measures schools success on how well pupils do in a limited number of EBacc subjects, is “creating a false hierarchy” in schools and is “harming the uptake of non-EBacc subjects, most notably creative, artistic and technical subjects.”

“In 2016, for the first time since 2012, the percentage of pupils taking at least one arts subject declined and from 2015-2016 there was an 8% decline in uptake of creative subjects (arts + a design and technology.”

The letter also points out that  teacher numbers and teaching hours are declining almost twice as fast in creative subjects, despite government’s own figures which show the creative industries are the fastest-growing part of the UK economy, and which accounts for one in 11 jobs.

“With the UK now repositioning itself on the world’s stage, the EBacc is no longer relevant; and dropping the un-evidenced and deeply damaging EBacc would come with no political or financial cost but with huge gains to the UK’s reputation as a leading creative industries player, our economy and our skills base,” the letter states.

The letter was drafted by the Incorporated Society of Musicians’ Bacc for the Future campaign, which represents over 200 organisations and more than 100,000 individuals.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb has insisted that there is “no evidence” to suggest the take up of arts GCSEs is declining, and dismissed teachers’ concerns about the EBacc as “tired and inaccurate criticisms”. 

Ministers have also failed to publish the responses to the consultation on its EBacc policy, despite promising to do so in 2016.

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