Scrap ‘worthless’ EBacc over decline in arts

A report from the education think tank EDSK has urged the government to scrap the ‘worthless’ EBacc after it provoked a large decline in pupils taking GCSEs in arts subjects.

Penned by former Department for Education adviser Tom Richmond, the A step Baccward report examines trends in exam entries and results since the performance measure was introduced in 2010, and found that subjects included in the EBacc have, on the whole, witnessed ‘substantial increases’ in GCSE entries.

However, subjects such as art and design, dance, drama, media studies, music and design and technology, all of which are not included in the combination of subjects, have all seen a decline in entries and are now falling year-on-year. Acknowledging that financial pressures may also have played a part in the trend, EDSK says that the EBacc will have contributed to this decline ‘in terms of encouraging schools to prioritise EBacc subjects over other options’.

The think tanks recommends that the two EBacc performance measures for schools – the percentage of pupils entering the English Baccalaureate and the English Baccalaureate Average Point Score (EBacc APS) – should be withdrawn with immediate effect, while the associated targets of 75 per cent of pupils entering the EBacc subjects by 2022, and 90 per cent by 2025, should also be dropped.

Following the removal of the EBacc performance measures, the Department for Education has also been encouraged to refer instead to ‘core’ and ‘additional’ subjects in the context of GCSEs. Furthermore, the report says that consideration should be given to reforming the ‘Progress 8’ performance measure if policymakers want to put a greater emphasis on ‘additional’ subjects including arts provision.

Richmond said: “The worrying trends across almost every non-EBacc subject regarding GCSE entries and teacher numbers can no longer be ignored. Removing the EBacc will not necessarily lead to an immediate upsurge in the number of pupils taking GCSEs in creative arts subjects, but the advent of new ways to measure secondary schools such as Progress 8 has provided the government with a perfectly sufficient tool for promoting their view of the subjects that schools should be prioritising – rendering the EBacc worthless.

“As teachers and school leaders are already facing significant workload issues, the EBacc should be scrapped to allow them to concentrate on improving the quality of teaching and learning instead of chasing meaningless and unattainable targets.”

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