Bacc again: The Incorporated Society of Musicians warns of damage to the creative industries if Government proposals go ahead

With the Government planning to force every secondary school pupil to take a narrow range of subjects at GCSE, there is a real risk that creative industry relevant qualifications – including GCSE, AS and A-levels in music and other arts subjects – will be forced out of many secondary schools.

As part of its election manifesto, the Conservative party said it would make the English Baccalaureate compulsory for every secondary school student in the country. Wasting no time in u-turning on the previous u-turn, Nick Gibb announced details of the Government’s plans – which will force secondary school students to study not only maths, English and a science subject but also a language and a humanities subject (defined as only history or geography).

Sending a profound warning, the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) – the musicians’ professional body – cited extensive evidence which demonstrates that the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) falls short of delivering high-quality education, a stated objective of the Government.

The EBacc has had a devastating impact on creative learning. In 2007 more than 60,000 pupils took GCSE music and more than 350,000 students took Design & Technology. In 2014 that figures dropped to under 43,000 and around 200,000.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians said:

‘This is a rejection of the “more balanced and meaningful accountability system” proposed under the last Government. What happened to the “professional autonomy” that we were promised just a few months ago?

‘The Government is rightly focussed on jobs, growth and a balanced budget. This policy undermines that ambition. The creative industries are worth £76.9bn per year to the UK economy, and the educational importance of creative subjects cannot be over-estimated. It should be a great concern to all of us that the Department for Education is playing fast and loose with the country’s economic and educational wellbeing.

‘The Government should seriously reconsider their new EBacc proposal.’

Notes for Editors:

About the ISM

The ISM is the professional body for those working in the music profession. We promote music and look after the interests of professional musicians.

Our membership of approximately 7,000 covers both individual musicians and corporate bodies. Individual members include leading conductors, featured and non-featured artists, orchestral musicians working in all of the UK’s leading orchestras, composers, animateurs and arrangers.

Our corporate membership of over 160 music organisations includes Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Royal Academy of Music, Royal College of Music, Royal Northern College of Music, Birmingham Conservatoire, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, Leeds College of Music, British Voice Association, Rhinegold Publishing, Avid, Yamaha UK, YCAT, the Composer’s Edition, NMC Recordings, Jazz Services Ltd, Association of Independent Music, Classic FM, the Royal Philharmonic Society, Help Musicians UK, Association of British Orchestras (ABO), Music Sales Ltd, the Music Industries Association (MIA), and more.

About the EBacc

The EBacc is a league table, and now a compulsory measure, forcing secondary school pupils to take a narrow range of academic subjects (maths, English, sciences, languages and history of geography). The list of subjects is based on the Russell Group’s report Informed Choices. However, the report has not been corroborated and has been challenged by academics at Russell Group universities. Research has also been published on which subjects help you get into Russell Group universities. It found ‘no evidence (beyond stated prejudice) to support the claim that [facilitating subjects] facilitate entry to Russell Group universities.’

Bacc for the Future

The ISM founded the Bacc for the Future campaign in 2012 following the original EBacc proposals which saw over 100 creative industry and education organisations including the BPI, UK Music, Design Council, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the #IncludeDesign campaign group, the Heads for the Arts campaign group, Shakespeare’s Globe, the NUT and the Sport and Recreation Alliance; 50,000 petition signatures and high-profile figures come together to ask the Government to slow down the pace of reform. This resulted in the Government announcing that they will introduce a ‘new eight-subject measure of GCSEs, including English and maths, three subjects out of sciences, languages, history and geography and three other subjects, such as art, music or RE’ and that the English Baccalaureate Certificates were to be dropped in favour of reformed, rigorous GCSEs.

Michael Gove, in Parliament, on Thursday 7 February 2013, announcing a u-turn on the original EBacc proposals:

“I am proposing a more balanced and meaningful accountability system, with two new measures—the percentage of pupils in each school reaching an attainment threshold in the vital core subjects of English and maths; and an average point score showing how much progress every student makes between key stage 2 and key stage 4. The average point score measure will reflect pupils’ achievement across a wide range of eight subjects.” [Hansard.]

Nick Gibb 13 November 2014:

‘But today I want to talk about our structural reforms that have delivered professional autonomy.’ [Source.]