EBacc puts creativity at risk (6 August 2015) 'Curtain closing on school theatre trips'

  1. House of Lords debate highlights omission of creative subjects from EBacc
  2. Figures show that children from backgrounds of high deprivation are less likely to take music, drama and dance at GCSE level
  3. Bacc for the Future campaign grows to 60+ organisations

The Department for Education (DfE) announced back in June their plans to make the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) compulsory.

This means that all secondary school pupils would have to study subjects listed in five ‘pillars’ of learning: Maths, English, languages (ancient or modern), sciences and humanities (defined as history or geography), leaving little room for arts subjects.

New evidence, and a debate in the House of Lords are drawing attention to the inconsistencies in the policy and Bacc for the Future supporters are urging the Government to properly value creative subjects.

House of Lords highlight the omission of creative subjects

The House of Lords debate challenged the exclusion of creative subjects from the EBacc on Wednesday 22 July, with the EBacc being blamed for ‘already causing some schools to reduce their provision of creative and cultural subjects.’

Former Conservative education secretary, Ken Baker (Baron Baker of Dorking) expressed his concern, saying:

‘Schools up and down the country are reducing their curriculum very significantly in order to concentrate on the academic subjects included in the EBacc.’

Another Conservative Peer, Lord Cormack said:

‘Will the Minister agree that in the 21st century no country can really claim to call itself civilised unless every pupil leaves school with a knowledge of music, the arts, and the history of the country?’

And the Labour spokesperson, Lord Touhig said:

‘Given this enthusiasm for culture, why are the Government deliberately excluding study of the arts from the English baccalaureate?’

In an apparent willingness to listen, Lord Nash, minister of state for education, said that he would ‘go away and look at this further.

Research from Cambridge Assessment about the uptake of GCSE subjects in 2014 has shown that children from ‘high disadvantage’ backgrounds are less likely to take up music, drama and dance at GCSE.

These new figures show that the proportion of students studying drama, music and dance between 2010 and 2014 was consistently higher for children from backgrounds of low deprivation and is lower amongst children from higher deprivation backgrounds. [Source 2]

This is at odds with a speech by Nicky Morgan MP, the Secretary of State for Education, in which she suggested that the reason every child should do the EBacc is because for too long, certain pupils have been told that these subjects aren’t for them, adding that it’s the most disadvantaged students who face these damaging assumptions most often.

Organisations from across the creative sector have stepped up the Bacc for the Future campaign with 62 key industry figureheads and organisations coming together to publicly voice their concerns:

Richard Green, Chief Executive, Design and Technology Association said:

‘A couple of weeks back I received an email from a Design and Technology teacher in a Dorset school. She said, “We are a creative nation, with designers spanning the globe in all areas of the industry. Several years ago, our school won a patent awards competition and at the award ceremony, Lord Sainsbury in his speech stated that, ‘… design and innovation is our biggest export.’ Without schools encouraging and emboldening students to explore the possibilities of design not only will this ‘export’ be lost, but so too will our native desire to explore and transform.” I couldn’t put it better!

Karen Dickinson, Director of Music for Little People said:

‘What subject in the early years introduces concepts such as pitch, rhythm, tempo, timbre, beat and notation; provides social cohesion, enhances English language learning and vocabulary, knowledge of the world, mathematical concepts such as sequencing and links all sorts of themes together? Only one – imagine the silence if we don’t have music.’

Philip Flood, Director, Sound Connections said:

‘Sound Connections believes that music, alongside the other creative subjects, is central to the overall development of young people and should be at the heart of the curriculum.’

Paul Hoskins, Music Director, Rambert said:

‘The absence of arts subjects from the Ebacc, will have bad unintended consequence: not just on the breadth of experiences available to students and schools, but on many of the UK theatres, concert halls and performing organisations, at a time when these are already under serious threat. The economic benefits brought to the UK by future generations of creative people will also be undermined.’

Paul McManus, Chief Executive, Music Industries Association said:

‘The MIA remains fully committed to the Bacc for the Future campaign in order to ensure that Ebacc does not harm creative subjects in schools. The Creative Industries are a huge success story for UK plc and this must not be jeopardised by an EBacc that works against this.’

Barbara Eifler, Executive Director, Making Music said:

‘As the organisation for amateur music in the UK we know that the 170,000+ individuals - singers and players - who make up our membership of 3,000+ groups are passionate about the benefits that have accrued to them personally, to their working lives and to their communities through their ability to engage with music.

This ability is a gift most of them received during their time in compulsory full-time education. Our members are therefore dismayed that access to music and its manifold benefits - just as they are increasingly proven by numerous studies - is being denied to the next generation due to the narrow focus of the proposed EBacc.’

Mark Featherstone-Witty, Founding Principal/CEO, The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, said:

‘Despite the Ministers’ recent words, the creative and performing arts are being side-lined. Not so in Wales, where the Expressive Arts are one of the six compulsory ‘areas of learning and experience’. The Valleys will triumph.’

Michael Smith, Founder, Cog Design said:

‘The marginalisation of arts subjects indicates a lack of understanding of their vital role in our education ecology. Deliberately dividing subjects in such a regimented way is destructive in itself, all topics benefit from a broad understanding and consideration of the context of other areas of study. To then denigrate arts subjects as literally worthless is educational vandalism.

We risk a society where only those with privilege will study the arts. We risk generations of creative poverty, of engineers, scientists, teachers, and politicians who lack the basic understanding of how to make creative connections, or of why regimented thinking produces incremental results not the great leaps of imagination that transform societies and solve world problems.’

Sarah Gee, Managing Partner, Indigo-Ltd said:

‘With the Government’s increasing focus on private philanthropy to support the arts sector; I’m delighted to be involved in training the next generation of arts fundraisers. However, given over twenty years of experience, I know that the best fundraisers combine business skills with creativity and innovation. Without creativity in the curriculum, there must be a fear that the arts - which contribute so much to the UK economy, attract visitors to the country, and fly our national flag around the world - may simply disappear. Don’t let that happen. Please.’

Rachel Tackley, Director, the English Touring Theatre:

It baffles me that this Government is seriously proposing a policy which will jeopardise opportunities for a whole generation of young people. Arts subjects are as equal in importance to a well-rounded education as any other. We must not deprive future generations the opportunity to enjoy, participate or work in creative industries.

Lucina Mackworth-Young, Director, Piano Teachers’ Course, EPTA UK said:

‘Music is unique and outstanding in its stimulation of mental development. Children have so many demands on their time; that they will only work for subjects in which they’re being assessed. So, if the E Bacc goes ahead as proposed, music –and all its wonderful benefits- will suffer. What a loss for our nation!’

Mary-Alice Stack, Chief Executive, Creative United:

'The UK currently enjoys a flourishing and diverse creative sector which is admired the world over. The growth of the creative industries is currently three times greater than that of the wider UK economy. Figures published by DCMS in January 2015 show that the creative industries are worth £76.9 billion per year to the UK economy and account for 1.71 million jobs, about 5.6% of the UK total.

This success can only continue where it is underpinned by an excellent education system, nurturing the young talent which is the lifeblood of the creative sector. By stripping creativity out of the core curriculum, the new Ebacc proposals will leave the creative sector without a future workforce. In order to achieve growth, jobs, and a balanced budget, Government must continue to invest in the development of the creative sector through the continued provision of a broad and balanced education for all our children and young people.'

Christine Payne, General Secretary, Equity said:

‘As artists and as trade unionists it is our responsibility to safeguard the future of our industries, to inspire the next generation of performers and audiences and to defend the societal, economic and cultural value of our industries. All children and young people should have the opportunity to experience drama as a subject in its own right, taught by teachers trained in drama, and enhanced through cultural partnerships.’

John Habron, Chair, Education and Training Committee, Dalcroze UK:

'As an organisation committed to a holistic vision of the person and the potential of music and movement to transform learning and performance, Dalcroze UK fully supports ISM's Bacc for the Future campaign. All learning is rooted in the body and so to evaluate education based on a limited number of student competencies is to limit our notion of what it means to be creative, to be ready to respond to the challenges and opportunities of life.'

John Mathers, Chief Executive, Design Council said:

‘Design education is absolutely fundamental to the future success of the UK. If it is going to continue to compete with the biggest economies worldwide, the UK must invest in the next generation of innovators who are going to drive long-term growth and prosperity: and that means design.

Science and maths alone cannot provide the creative thinking and hands-on expertise that is essential to producing world-class designers and engineers. An understanding of design and technology ensures that students are equipped with the tools to thrive in an increasingly fast- paced, innovation-hungry marketplace.

Big business today understands the importance of fusing technical skills with a creative, design-led approach. We need to maintain the quality of education so that they have the skills they need to grow, and so that the next generation can compete on that world stage.’

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

‘The ISM is deeply concerned by proposals to make the EBacc compulsory. Given the Government’s commitment to music education, and recognition of the importance of the UK’s music profession and wider creative industries to the UK economy, it is inconsistent to risk forcing creative education out of schools.’

1. About the EBacc

The English Baccalaureate or EBacc was originally a league table which ranked schools by pupil attainment in a narrow range of subjects (maths, English, sciences, languages and history of geography).

Following a successful campaign to halt the EBacc becoming compulsory, the Government carried out a dramatic u-turn on 7 February 2013, and announced that this league table should be replaced by a more balanced and meaningful accountability system called ‘Progress 8’ which would measure progress pupils made across a broader range of 8 subjects.

However, the Government have now announced their intention to make the EBacc subjects compulsory for all secondary state pupils in England. Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education has said: ‘…every child starting in year 7 in September will be expected to study core academic subjects that make up the EBacc right up to GCSE.’ [Source]

Despite the Department for Education claiming that the EBacc subjects help students get a place at Russell Group universities, research has found ‘no evidence (beyond stated prejudice) to support the claim that [EBacc subjects] facilitate entry to Russell Group universities.’