One year on from the EBacc consultation launch and no response

Thursday 3 November marks one year since the Department for Education launched a consultation on their plans to make the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) all-but compulsory in secondary schools, a decision made under former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and first proposed under Michael Gove.

The immediate impact of the EBacc has been an 8% decline in the uptake of creative artistic and technical subjects at GCSE level and a 1.7% decline in the number of students taking at least one arts-based GCSE, seen in figures released by the Department of Education after this year’s GCSE results.

The Bacc for the Future campaign (comprising 200+ organisations and more than 100,000 individuals) is calling on the Government to drop their plans for the EBacc and instead continue with implementing the original proposals for Progress 8 and Attainment 8for all secondary schools.

Neil Constable, Chief Executive, of the Shakespeare's Globe said:

‘The EBacc leaves little room for students to study creative subjects - a cause for much concern. They have cross-curricular benefits and help develop innovative thinkers who contribute both economically and socially in all sectors, be it engineering or medicine, as well as the creative industries.’

Sir Mark Featherstone-Witty OBE, Founding Principal/CEO of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) said:

‘The purpose of learning is to find out what you are good at and love doing. Why is this government deciding this for youngsters they don’t know and haven’t asked?’

Stuart Worden, Principal of the BRIT School said:

‘The BRIT School champion a creative arts education and we are living proof that young people can get jobs in the creative industries and make a huge contribution to the UK economy. Without the creative arts, the country will be much poorer and young people will be poorer in life skills too. The arts give young people a place for self-expression, to explore ideas and society. The arts are known to increase confidence, self-esteem and happiness; vital elements of growing up and being connected to the world we live in.’

Julian Lloyd Webber, Principal of Birmingham Conservatoire said:

‘Access to music should be a birth right for all our children and the government has a duty to recognize this.’

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians (and founder of the Bacc for the Future campaign), said:

‘It is a whole year since the former Education Secretary proposed a new all but compulsory EBacc. Since the launch of the consultation we have seen an 8% drop in uptake of creative, artistic and technical GCSEs as these subjects are excluded from the EBacc.

In a post-Brexit UK, we cannot afford to undermine our profitable creative industries – worth £87 billion a year to the UK economy, we cannot afford to exacerbate the skills gap facing our creative businesses, and we cannot afford to lose the broad and balanced curriculum which other countries adopt. The Bacc for the Future campaign has gone from strength to strength, gathering support from more than 200 organisations across design, architecture, engineering, music and the whole of the creative industries and more than 100,000 individuals. We urge the new Education Secretary to drop the un-evidenced and damaging EBacc.’

Sue Wyatt, Chair of One Dance UK said:

‘The EBacc consultation is a vital part of the process of ensuring accountability measures still enable schools to meet the needs and aspirations of all their pupils and the lack of response by the Government is hindering this process. We are deeply concerned about the effect the EBacc is already having on arts education at GCSE and specifically the take-up of dance. In the last year alone, the number of young people taking Dance GCSE has fallen by 9%. We believe that opportunities for pupils to make their own choices are being restricted through the implementation of EBacc pathways and the withdrawal of arts subjects.’

Tess Jaray, British painter and printmaker, said:

‘If these plans are not dropped it will be a national disgrace.’

Chris Keates, General Secretary of NASUWT said:

‘It is essential that all children are offered a broad and balanced curriculum that meets their needs and interests. The EBacc stands in the way of this vital objective by marginalising those creative and artistic subjects that are central to a rounded education and to this country’s economic prospects. It is well past time for the DfE to publish the outcomes of its EBacc consultation, which are certain to show the extent of concern among teachers, employers and the general public about this ill-founded policy. It is essential that the Government sets the EBacc to one side and works with the NASUWT and all those with a stake in the success of the education system to help schools offer the curriculum that all pupils deserve.’

Paula Briggs and Sheila Ceccarelli, Directors of AccessArt said:

‘AccessArt receives phone calls and email enquiries on a daily basis now from parents who are looking for visual arts learning opportunities for their children outside school, as it is becoming harder and harder to access creative learning opportunities IN school. The demand and appetite for creative exploration is there. Back in the nineties we used to talk a lot about enabling every child to explore his or her creative potential – it’s very sad to think that as a society we have actually gone backwards in meeting this aim.’

Dr Michael Pritchard, Chief Executive of the Royal Photographic Society said:

‘The RPS remains concerned about the proposed changes to the curriculum and its impact across the visual and creative arts. The UK excels in photography and the proposed changes will affect future generations at a time when visual awareness and creativity is so important in society and will become ever more important for UK plc.’

Paul Martin, M.D. of Mundo Music Gear said:

‘As a long-time member of the ISM I support wholly its exhaustive work and analysis of the EBacc and its proposal to revert to and implement the original proposals. I would also add that in a world where the western workforce will continue to shrink over time, we need to encourage and foster creative minds more than ever.’

Alice Barnard, Chief Executive of the Edge Foundation said:

‘The EBacc as it currently stands will trap twenty-first century children in the curriculum of the 1900s. Edge fully supports the need for a broad and balanced curriculum that will provide all young people with creative and technical skills as well as an academic core. We have heard encouraging words from the government on the value of technical and creative subjects; now we need action to back this up.’

James Murphy, Managing Director of Southbank Sinfonia said:

‘At Southbank Sinfonia, we believe all children and teenagers deserve regular classroom time dedicated to music. From orchestral practitioners to casual listeners, music helps us all establish a sense of self and define who we each uniquely are in the world. It empowers, consoles, energises, focuses the mind, and inspires creativity that has lasting worth whatever one’s ultimate vocation may be. Furthermore, it can help give a school its soul, as little unites and lifts spirits like music can.’

Nigel Carrington, Vice-Chancellor of University of the Arts London, said:

‘These figures show that the talent pipeline into the creative industries is beginning to run dry, thanks to the EBacc. What schools feel today will be felt at UAL next year, and in the creative industries in five years’ time. This will reduce Britain's competitiveness and lock a generation of talented people out of one of our most successful industries.’

Harriet Meeuwissen-True, Creative Engagement Director at Interplay said:

‘Access to the arts and expressing oneself creatively is a basic human right which every child should have the means to experience and develop. It’s about time that the education system recognises this, rather than treating it as a commodity or an extra-curricular activity, so that everyone has the opportunity to engage and flourish in the arts.’

Michael Smith, Founding Director of Cog Design said:

‘Making creative subjects second-class has begun a predictable decline in uptake. The damaging knock-on effects will cascade through generations. It’s not too late to reverse the plans but it will be, very soon.’

Wozzy Brewster OBE, Founder and Executive Director of the Midi Music Company said:

‘The proposed EBacc as it stands will have a negative impact on the growth of the creative industries because it will disadvantage any young person from a less affluent background who will not be able to enter our sector as an aspiring creative, and develop a professional career, thereby affecting the diversity of the sector now and in the future.’

Jacqui Cameron, Education Director of Opera North said:

‘The implementation of the EBacc proposal will create a major challenge for UK arts organisations seeking to create a diverse workforce; the training of this future workforce begins at school.’

Lesley Butterworth, General Secretary of NSEAD said:

‘The impact of the EBacc on the choices available to young people wishing to study art and design has been made explicit in the GCSE figures, which this year show a 6 percent decline for our subject, the biggest percentage decline in total candidate numbers recorded since 2000, when JCQ first published data. It is imperative that plans for the EBacc are dropped to restore a broad and balanced curriculum for everyone.’

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

‘Design & Technology in education has taught, inspired and nurtured a practical understanding of design thinking and problem solving in generations of young people to the benefit of 'UK plc'. Yet, in the last week I received two emails from Heads of D&T, informing me that their schools, one in Liverpool and one in Hampshire, are closing the D&T departments and that the workshop facilities are being converted into classrooms to accommodate more EBacc classes. This is a worrying and growing trend. The loss of D&T in the curriculum deprives an increasing number of pupils of the very education - technical, practical, creative, problem solving - that Justine Greening said British business needs in her speech to the Conservative Conference in October. We call on the Department for Education to recognise and invest in the very subjects that have contributed to the UK’s world leading status in the arts, design and technology.’

Ed Scolding, Director of Greenwich Music School said:

‘Creative subjects are an essential part of a balanced curriculum. The study of a creative subject can have an immediate and lasting impacting on vital areas of work and life. The skills and experiences involved in the study of a creative subject are all the more important in the service-based economy of the present and future.’

Neil Griffiths, Director of Arts Emergency said:

‘The EBacc creates a false hierarchy of subjects which will further embed social inequality in arts learning and careers.’

Diane Widdison, MU National Organiser for Teaching said:

‘The effect of the introduction of the EBacc in Secondary schools is already resulting in a reduction in pupils studying Arts subjects at GCSE level and we are now seeing courses cancelled and qualifications disappearing from the curriculum. The teaching profession is under increasing pressure to produce results in these core subjects to meet Government set standards and unfortunately the Arts seem to be suffering disproportionately.

We continue to urge the Government to rethink their stance on the Ebacc and make sure that each child is offered the chance to study a balanced and comprehensive curriculum that is fit for purpose for an education in the 21st Century.’

Richard Hallam, Chair of the Music Education Council (MEC) said:

‘The importance of a broad and balanced curriculum of quality, which enables every child to choose to pursue an arts subject to 16 cannot be overstated. Action must be taken to ensure this entitlement is a genuine one for all young people.’

Aine Lark, Chair of National Drama said:

‘A curriculum devoid of arts seeks to only partially promote its learners and will surely result in an expressionless bleak future of inflexibility and lack of originality across all walks of life. We must recognise that children and young people grow and develop through play, exploration, experimentation, creative activities. They will not flourish if they are squeezed into half a dozen pre-appointed subjects, dictated by government officials heavy with their own political agendas. Far from being the "foundations of a good education that ultimately will keep options open for young people's future", to quote Nicky Morgan, the EBacc will compromise our students' development as creative thinkers, problem solvers, visionaries and negotiators, and in fact LIMIT their options as they progress into adulthood.

Ali Warren, Secondary Officer for National Drama said:

‘The plans for the EBacc implementation is sending the wrong message to the young people who are the future of our highly successful Creative Arts industries and to their parents. It brands the Arts as second class in a world where the UK has an international reputation for first class work. It makes students feel that by doing Drama or Dance or other arts subjects that they (students) are less important.’

Professor Andrew Brewerton, Principal of Plymouth College of Art and Chair of Governors at Plymouth School of Creative Arts, said:

‘The threat of blanket imposition of EBACC as a control measure on schools has already, by default, resulted in significant decline in the uptake of arts and design at GCSE as these subjects are withdrawn from KS4 option subjects. The degree to which this consequence is intended or otherwise is unclear. What does seem clear, however, is that EBACC will work for some students, but by no means all, and that structural failure of a broad and balanced school curriculum that includes creative subjects spells dismal news for the future of Britain’s world-leading creative economy. We owe the next generation something more than a legacy of league tables, target culture, and teaching to the test, and in education it seems to me more than ever that making is as important as reading and writing.’

In response to this article Edmund Crutchfield commented:

I fully support the responses to the debate on the EBacc situation for the arts and allied subjects.
With regard to music it is desperately vital to educate our youngsters in the traditions of European Music which has been a strong influence for centuries. The ancient civilisations such as Greece were emphatic about the need to include art and music in the development of the rounded and civilised individual. What is happening in Britain is the removal of any obligation and necessity to educate all our citizens of the future in their humanisation and understanding of proper culture. Not the dreadful developing shallowness by dumbing down of much that is evident at present.
We must insist that the idea of quality music is not "elitist", there needs to be a realisation that quality and high standards are essential for an understanding and appreciation of what music and the arts can do.
It is baffling that sectors of society are quite content to regard sports and the high standards achieved as "elite" but when applied to the arts, particularly music it is used as a derogatory and damaging insult.
The government need to fully appreciate and realise that the arts have an enormous civilising influence on society. To be specific: the discipline required of an orchestra/concert band to achieve stunningly high standards demands that all involved are of like mind working and pulling together. Apart from the disciplines required in the military field, there is nothing more rewarding and telling to observe a youth orchestra/concert band in rehearsal and performance. I just wish politicians would take serious note and realise what they are not doing. Perhaps it might be an idea to insist that all politicians should also be versatile choral singers and instrumentalists! (In one's wildest dreams, but just imagine the transformation of parliament, government and councils.)