One-size fits all curriculum will force creative subjects out of schools
It is essential that the arts be given equal visibility in our schools, the proposed Ebacc will squeeze out any creativity, writes Deborah AnnettsBy Deborah Annetts. On the face of it, this Government supports the arts.
They protected investment in Arts Council England, they confirmed their commitment to music education hubs by maintaining their £75m investment, and in his spending review, George Osborne said:
"Britain’s not just brilliant at science. It’s brilliant at culture too."
"One of the best investments we can make as a nation is in our extraordinary arts, museums, heritage, media and sport."
Great news. I could not agree more.
It is confusing, therefore, that an understanding of the core knowledge that underpins the economic and the social success of the UK - our cultural capital - is at risk in our schools.
"If this new EBacc becomes a reality, there would be little room left for pupils to study creative industry relevant subjects."
Towards the end of 2015, the Government finally released their plans to overhaul school accountability measures and introduce a new all-but-compulsory English Baccalaureate (or EBacc) measure. The new EBacc proposal is far more pernicious than its previous form as a league table. It will now be a new headline accountability measure. The objective is that 90 per cent of pupils will take the EBacc and this will mean that every pupil will have to take a minimum of seven GCSEs: English literature and English language, maths, double or triple science, a modern and/or ancient language, history and/or geography. The objective is that 90 per cent of pupils will take the EBacc.
No bad thing – it is done out of a genuine desire to ensure that children from all backgrounds get access to these subjects, but this list is narrow and restrictive. The average number of GCSEs taken by a secondary school pupil in England is just eight. Worryingly, there are bound to be some subject casualities. Inexplicably, the EBacc proposal seems to be riding roughshod over Michael Gove’s praiseworthy launch of a
"more meaningful accountability measure" - Progress 8 - which measures progress across eight subject areas and counts creative subjects – a real Baccalaureate. If this new EBacc becomes a reality, there would be little room left for pupils to study creative industry relevant subjects. Music, art, design, technology, drama and many more creative subjects would be squeezed out of schools altogether.
It is perhaps unsurprising that the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) is concerned. But so too are more than 150 organisations including Shakespeare’s Globe, Birmingham Conservatoire (led by Professor Julian Lloyd Webber), Rambert, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), Directors UK, the Music Industries Association, the Turner Contemporary, the Society of London Theatre & UK Theatre Association, the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Equity, The Royal Central School Of Speech and Drama, University of London, The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and the Design Council and Design and Technology Association.
If this new EBacc becomes a reality, there would be little room left for pupils to study creative industry relevant subjects.The UK’s creative industries contribute more than £76 billion to the UK economy and employ more than 1.7 million (more than 1 in 20 UK jobs). The EBacc as it currently stands will jeopardise the future success of our creative industries by significantly reducing opportunities for the next generation of musicians, technicians, designers, artists, actors and all the other vital roles in the industry. It makes no sense for the Government to implement an educational strategy which is so prejudicial to the country’s economic success. We need to build on our thriving creative economy and therefore it is essential that the arts be given equal visibility in our schools.
Why risk this with a narrow, one-size fits all curriculum that will force creative and technical subjects out of schools? The EBacc must be reformed.
What is the Ebacc?
The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) is a performance measure which shows how many pupils get a grade C or above in the core academic subjects - maths, English, the sciences, a language and history or georgraphy - at GCSE. The Government introduced the EBacc in 2010, and last year announced plans for all pupils who start Year 7 in September 2015 to take the EBacc subjects at GCSE in 2020. The consultation on the Ebacc proposals ends at the end of January 2016.