Arts campaigners welcome Gove’s EBacc U-turn

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Proposals to replace GCSEs with an English Baccalaureate qualification that did not include arts subjects have been dropped by the government.

Arts campaigners who had opposed the EBacc proposals have welcomed the news.

Education secretary Michael Gove said today that his idea to “end the competition between exam boards to offer GCSEs in core academic qualifications” and have one exam in each subject was “just one reform too many at this time”.

Gove has instead launched a public consultation on the national curriculum to reform GCSEs and also a secondary school accountability consultation.

In a document from the Department for Education detailing this latter consultation, it has been proposed that an eight-subject measure should be introduced to schools, which would include the option of arts subjects.

This measure would be comprised of English and mathematics, plus three subjects out of either sciences, computer science, geography, history and languages. There would also be three slots reserved for “further qualifications from the range of EBacc subjects, or any other high value arts, academic, or vocational qualifications”.

Arts organisations had campaigned against the proposals for an EBacc qualification to replace GCSEs because they said it would marginalise creative subjects.

Last week the Education Select Committee stated that the “case for the abolition of key GCSEs is still unproven” and that the government was “trying to do too much, too fast [with the EBacc proposals]”.

In light of today’s government announcement, Deborah Annetts, who is chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians and coordinator of the Bacc for the Future campaign which was calling on the government to include arts in its EBacc reforms, said she welcomed the news.

“We welcome this announcement; this is good news for children and good news for education,” she said.

“We must learn from the last six months of consultation and ensure we work together to create high quality and rigorous GCSEs and A Levels with appropriate assessment fit for the 21st century. Creative subjects such as art, music and design and technology need to stay at the heart of education so that we can develop talented youngsters to feed our creative industries and generate growth,” said Annetts.

She added: “The voices of the creative industries and education sectors have been listened to, and we welcome this. We will now be looking closely at the new proposed national curriculum for music and work with the government to ensure that we have a national curriculum, GCSEs and A levels fit for the future.”

The public consultation on the curriculum is open until April 16 and the accountability consultation is open until May 1.