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GCSE drama uptake drops by 4% in 2016

The number of GCSE drama students in England has fallen by 4%. Photo: Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock The number of GCSE drama students in England has fallen by 4%. Photo: Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock
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The number of students taking GCSE drama in England has dropped by 4% in 2016, a fall almost four times greater than the previous year.

According to exam regulator Ofqual, 68,250 students are taking GCSE drama in 2016 – 2,730 fewer than last year. Between 2014 and 2015 numbers decreased by 695.

When the 2016 drop is combined with the falling numbers taking performing/expressive arts – which encompasses several different art forms – it spells a decline of 5.5% on the previous year.

This mirrors a trend across all creative subjects, with decreasing numbers of students sitting GCSEs in music, media, film and TV studies, art and design, and design and technology, which saw the steepest drop off, of almost 6,000 students.

Commenting on the latest figures, John Kampfner, chief executive of the Creative Industries Federation, said: “We are seriously concerned about the future for the arts and creative industries given the decline in the take-up of arts subjects in schools. This is a question not just of life chances but of the skills pipeline.”

He added that the cultural sector was already suffering skills shortages, and that undervaluing and excluding creative subjects within education would have major ramifications on both the creative industries and on other sectors.

Conversely, there have been overall increases in maths, biology, chemistry, physics, history and geography – the core subjects in the English Baccalaureate.

The results have been criticised by arts supporters, including campaign group Bacc for the Future, which is calling for a withdrawal of the EBacc plans.

Campaign coordinator Deborah Annetts, who is chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, said the fall in creative subject uptake was “a direct result of the new and harmful EBacc proposal”.

“These new figures confirm the direction of travel of the government’s EBacc policy, namely to reengineer the education offered by schools. The only problem is that this is totally at odds with what the UK economy and the creative industries need,” she added.

“We urge the government not to wreck the future of secondary schools and the UK economy by withdrawing their EBacc proposal,” Annetts said.

The exclusion of compulsory arts from the new curriculum – as is the case in current EBacc plans – will be debated in parliament on July 4, after a public petition attracted more than 100,000 signatures.

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