EBacc endangers uptake of music and drama, ASCL cautions

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has warned that music and drama could be squeezed out of the curriculum if the government pushes on with the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) proposal.

The union believes that enforcing the EBacc could result in the number of students taking creative courses such as music and drama to drop. The government is aiming to get at least 90 per cent of school pupils in England taking at least seven GCSEs in EBacc subjects by 2020.

Ebac subjects include: English language and literature, mathematics, geography or history; a language; and at least two science GCSEs.

However, ASCL argues that these subjects and extra-curriculum requirements would leave little time for creative and technology courses.

Malcolm Trobe, ASCL interim general secretary, claimed there was a danger that music and drama could become ‘the preserve of the elite, accessible only to those who can afford private tuition’, if the EBacc makes it more difficult to run the courses.

He said: “We think that the EBacc needs to be more flexible to leave room for creative and technology subjects. These subjects are important for young people and for the economy. Creative industries alone are worth nearly £80 billion a year to the UK and account for 1.7 million jobs.”

The news has come as an online petition calling for arts subjects to be included in the EBacc has achieved over 60,000 signatures. The petition says: “Numeracy and literacy are certainly key to future success in life, but it is wrong to say that the arts are not worthy of inclusion in a measure used to grade a school’s success.

“Our children deserve a broad, creative education, but the EBacc is giving rise to massive declines in numbers of students able to choose arts subjects, at a time when the CBI demands more creative people.”

If the petition gains 100,000 signatures before 9 May, it will be considered for debate in the House of Commons.

A Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson argued: “ASCL aren’t just being disingenuous, they are ignoring the facts. All young people should study the core academic subjects that give them the skills to succeed but it is a myth to suggest this must come at the expense of the arts.

"Last summer’s results showed thousands more students taking GCSEs in arts or music subjects compared to the previous year and the percentage of pupils in state-funded school with at least one arts GCSE has increased since the EBacc was introduced.

“The arts are a key component of the broad and balanced education we expect all pupils to receive and this government has invested millions in arts projects, including schemes to help talented musicians and dancers from all backgrounds attend world-class institutions like the Royal Ballet School.”

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