Arts leaders claim government EBacc consultation marginalises arts

Neil Constable, chief executive of Shakespeare's Globe. Photo: Eliza Power
Neil Constable, chief executive of Shakespeare's Globe. Photo: Eliza Power
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Arts leaders have criticised a government consultation on the English Baccalaureate that excludes compulsory creative subjects, claiming it is marginalising the arts.

The consultation sets out proposals for implementing the EBacc, which is made up of a number of compulsory subjects including English, maths, science, a language and either history or geography.

The document’s goals include enrolling 90% of secondary school pupils in the EBacc, making it the default option. It also proposes that schools be held to account over their success in achieving the 90% target, making it a “headline measure” of secondary school performance.

The consultation follows a lengthy campaign – Bacc for the Future – to include the arts in the EBacc. The campaign's coordinator, Deborah Annetts, said the government had exhibited support for the creative industries through music education hubs and other cultural programmes.

"It is therefore troubling that a policy has been proposed which is so at odds with this, and which will make the EBacc all but compulsory for secondary school pupils. This is contrary to the advice of industry, artists and educators and we will be asking the government to reconsider these plans," she said.

The consultation, which is open for responses until January, proposes that the "rigorous academic core" of the EBacc will allow for pupils to study other subjects such as the arts, religious studies or vocational disciplines.

It was launched last week by education secretary Nicky Morgan, who in a speech said that the EBacc subjects were not the only ones that matter but the basis of an academic core.

"Who doesn't benefit from studying our nation's history? Who can't benefit and be inspired from understanding the fundamentals of science?," she added.

Supporters of the Bacc for the Future campaign include advocacy body Drama UK, English Touring Theatre and the education arm of Shakespeare's Globe.

Globe chief executive Neil Constable told The Stage: “It is disappointing that the government has not already incorporated arts into the EBacc. We remain hopeful that they will listen to the substantial weight of evidence during the consultation period.”

He added that feedback from the Globe's education projects demonstrated that the arts equip pupils with "the characteristics the secretary of state wishes to develop and skills employers say are lacking and vital".

"Why marginalise the arts? Many schools will supplement the curriculum but those in challenging areas will focus on subjects on which they will be assessed," he said.

Since its creation, the Bacc for the Future campaign has amassed support from about 12,000 individuals as well as more than 100 cultural organisations.

The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London warned that the EBacc could be perceived to be marginalising the creative arts, adding that this could result in the arts being dropped from the curriculum if such perceptions became embedded.

"Innovation requires ideas and originality. Removing creative subjects from the core curriculum risks diminishing these national assets," Central's dean Ross Brown told The Stage.

The consultation is open for responses until January 29, 2016.

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