Creators, educators and industry urge Government rethink on EBacc
New figures: urgent need to reverse decline in arts subjects
The Bacc for the Future campaign is back again following the Department for Education’s announcement of plans to introduce a compulsory list of subjects at GCSE level.
The new EBacc proposals would require every pupil to study English, maths, a science, a humanities subject (defined as only history or geography) and a language (ancient and modern) and would rank schools on performance in only these subjects, excluding the arts altogether.
By focussing on a narrow range of subjects at GCSE, creative industry relevant qualifications are being put at risk. The proposal could force creative subjects out of many secondary schools, which will have a knock-on effect on the creative industries, which are worth £76.9bn per year to the UK economy.
Figures have already shown a drop in arts GCSEs being taken over the last few years, with a small increase taking place following the retraction of the EBacc at the start of 2013. (See notes below.) When announcing the previous EBacc u-turn in 2013, Michael Gove proposed ‘a more balanced and meaningful accountability system’ which would reflect achievement across a wide range of eight subjects.
Key industry figureheads and organisations have come together to publicly voice their concerns:
Julian Lloyd Webber, Principal of Birmingham Conservatoire, said:
‘It is crazy that we should have to be fighting this battle all over again! Countless studies throughout the world have PROVED that children do better in their other subjects if they study music and play an instrument.
‘We are lagging behind countries like China that have recognised this and where children playing instruments and studying music in school is the norm.
‘The UK is missing out on talent in an area which has been of enormous benefit to the UK’s economy and prestige and these short-sighted proposals will exacerbate the problem.’
Paul McManus, Chief Executive, Music Industries Association:
‘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.’
Godfrey Worsdale, Chair of the Contemporary Visual Arts Network and Director of BALTIC:
‘The arts at the heart of education catalyse the potential of each child to think expansively, to take risks and to experiment. Access to arts subjects also opens a child’s eyes to the possibility that they too can creatively contribute to the world around them. For the UK to retain its leading edge in the creative industries, it is imperative that they are not denied the basic right to access the inspirational opportunities that proper engagement with arts subjects can engender.
Government needs also to consider that the consequences of this decision go much further than the arts and the creative industries. The greatest engineers, scientists and mathematicians are those who fully embrace the central significance of creativity and innovation, and who challenge to accepted norms – it is in our schools where these seeds must be sewn. Narrowing the syllabus will inevitably narrow minds.’
Lesley Butterworth, General Secretary of National Society for Education in Art and Design said:
‘The EBacc is a toxic barrier against culture, creativity and a broad and balanced, world class and relevant curriculum for the young people of the 21st century.’
Dr Helen Charman, Director of Learning and Research, Design Museum said:
‘If education is about developing the people the future needs and enabling them to flourish, and our economy to grow, then creativity has to sit at the heart of this endeavour. What better way for society to foster creativity and reap its benefits than through ensuring equal access and opportunity for all young people to the arts throughout their school lives?’
Richard Green, Chief Executive, the Design & Technology Association, said:
‘England led the world in introducing Design and Technology with the first national curriculum. Other countries, particularly those in the Far East, now come to us for advice and guidance as they look to develop creativity and innovation by introducing D&T-related courses. It is a cruel irony that this is happening at the very same time Government policies here are leading to D&T being marginalised in many schools or, in some cases, removed from the curriculum. We have to reverse this ludicrous situation and fully support the new Bacc for the Future campaign.’
Christine Blower, National Union of Teachers General Secretary said:
‘The EBacc represents a narrow vision for education which constricts the curriculum and fails to meet the needs and aspirations of many young people. All young people need opportunities to enjoy and succeed in their education, including through creative subjects, broader entitlements such as PE, and vocational and applied subjects. All of these areas can contribute to a rounded education and lead to valuable future learning and careers. They are of no less importance or value than the narrow definition of ‘academic’ achievement the EBacc represents.
‘We urgently need a curriculum and qualifications system for England which can inspire every learner, and enable each of them to have their achievements recognised.’
Mark Featherstone-Witty, Founding Principal/CEO, The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, said:
‘The Bacc was wrong in 2013, so it’s wrong to return to this flawed idea again. Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it (Santayana) and that’s you Mr Gibb. Don’t drag those with a better memory down with you.’
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 area 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 why regimented thinking produces incremental results not the great leaps of imagination that transform societies and solve world problems.’
Neil Constable, Chief Executive, Shakespeare's Globe, said:
‘The Government proudly cites the UK creative industries as world leaders, one of the fastest growing sectors, providing £8.8m an hour to our economy. Yet it proposes to impose the Ebacc on schools which will starve the industry of fresh talent, stunt the growth of our young people and make us all the poorer.
We need an educational system which encourages every student, at all schools not just a privileged few, to experience a broad and balanced curriculum. Creative subjects must not be second class citizens.’
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.’
Paul McManus, Chief Executive of the Music Industries Association said:
‘The MIA remains fully committed to the “Bacc for theFuture” 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.’
Rachel Tackley, Director of the English Touring Theatre:
‘Steve Jobs said: “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough. It is technology married with liberal arts married with the humanities that yields us the results that make our heart sing.” Sophocles said: “Whoever neglects the arts when he is young has lost the past and is dead to the future.” How can we hope to sustain an industry worth £77billion to the UK economy when this backward looking short-sighted policy is determined to turn us into a nation of accountants?’
Sally Lemsford, Curator of the Flaming Skirt Festival said:
‘Flaming Skirt Festival believes passionately that creativity is central to all education and innovation is at the heart of a successful economy. Surely the government will not consider the EBacc that blatantly ignores this? We urgently ask ministers to reconsider their stance on this.’
Lucina Mackworth-Young, Director of the 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!’
Jo Towler, Executive Director, Protein said:
‘The arts are vital in nurturing the creative minds of young people, giving them a rounded outlook and a chance to develop skills that will stay with them for life.
‘The arts aren’t just about becoming an artist; they are also about developing the imagination to become a revolutionary architect or engineer.
‘To downgrade their importance is to send the signal that the arts are merely an optional extra to our lives rather than fundamental to our being.’
Robin Wood MBE, Chair, Heritage Crafts Association said:
‘We have an incredible range of craft skills in the UK and some of the best craftspeople in the world - they are part of our shared heritage. Heritage crafts in England alone have almost 210,000 practitioners and contribute £4.4 billion GVA pa, with a potential of 12% growth over 10 years (Mapping Heritage Craft, 2012). Yet not only are there few craft courses at further and higher education but even fewer in schools. The lack of practical courses in making means that those who could contribute economically through craft are often unaware that viable careers are possible, and those where manual dexterity is crucial, such as surgeons and dentists, are having to be taught these skills as part of their high level training, having had no experience in schools.
‘The government is doing a disservice to so many of our children, of all ranges of ability, who would prefer a career in making, yet have no experience of it, and have had no practical hand/eye training in schools. Every child should have the opportunity to be creative, make something with their hands and use their imagination. It is unfair that those children who wish to study less practical subjects are catered for, yet those who wish to be more creative have no outlet.’
Stephen Lacey, Chair of the Standing Conference of University Drama Departments at University of South Wales said:
‘We believe that the proposal to impose a narrow range of academic subjects on schools is a misunderstanding of the nature of academic study and will inevitably lead to a restriction in the choices open to school students and a decline in the teaching of arts and culture in our schools and, eventually, universities.’
Sharon Heal, Director of the Museums Association said:
‘There have been countless studies that demonstrate that young people learn best across all subjects when they have a board cultural education. Visits to museums and galleries can provide rich and diverse learning opportunities and I worry there would be a reduction in these if a narrow and restricted curriculum was pursued.’
Paul Smith, Chairman-elect, Choir Schools’ Association said
‘BBC Radio 4 'World at One' recently chose Llandaff Cathedral's nomination of Cathedral music as being one example of how the UK is truly world class. Anyone teaching in schools will know how important the creative subjects are in developing self-esteem and confidence in young people, as well as augmenting their academic credentials in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. If pupils are to appreciate the world around them, and in particular their part in shaping and influencing society and culture, then they need to be taught a broad range of subjects which will develop and nurture skills in numeracy, literacy, linguistic ability, creativity, science and technology. Making it harder for schools to deliver an appropriate and fulfilling creative dimension to the taught curriculum will have a detrimental impact on the teaching and learning of all subjects, as well as being intrinsically damaging to the Arts.
‘If we wish to remain world class in music, drama, the film industry, art, design and so much more then it is essential that we maintain breadth, as well as depth, in what we teach the next generation of scientists, technologists, musicians, financiers and teachers.’
Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, said:
‘The plans represent a step in the wrong direction. The Government is focused on jobs, growth, a balanced budget and delivering a ‘high quality education’ in schools; it is a backwards step to propose a policy that undermines both objectives.’
Notes for editors
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.’
2. GCSE take up in arts subjects
3. About Bacc for the Future
Bacc for the Future is a cross-sector campaign urging the Government to i) reform or retract the EBacc in its present form and ii) ensure that creative subjects count equally in school accountability measures.
You can find out more about the campaign supporters below:
Action for Children's Arts
A New Direction
BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art
British and International Federation of Festivals for Music, Dance and Speech
Choir Schools' Association
Contemporary Visual Arts Network
Design & Technology Association
English Touring Theatre
Flaming Skirt Festival
Heritage Crafts Association
Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM)
League of Culture
Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA)
Magnus Long Design Studio
Music Industries Association
National Society for Education in Art and Design (NSEAD)
National Union of Teachers (NUT)
Standing Conference of University Drama Departments
University of the Arts London