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Government stands ground against EBacc arts petition

The EBacc does not require students to study an arts subject. Photo: Zurijeta/Shutterstock

The Department for Education has declared it does not believe arts subjects should be compulsory at GCSE level, as it pushes forward with plans to implement the English Baccalaureate.

The comments are part of an official response to a petition calling for creative subjects to be included in the EBacc [1], which does not require students to study an arts subject.

The petition had almost 67,000 signatures at the time of publication.

The response said: “The government believes that arts subjects are important. That is why art and design and music are compulsory subjects within the national curriculum for five to 14-year-olds. Pupils also have to study drama, as part of the English curriculum, and dance, as part of the PE curriculum.

“At key stage 4, the government does not believe it is right that every student should have to study an arts subject, but all pupils in maintained schools have a statutory entitlement to be able to study an arts subject if they wish.”

It marks the first time the government has issued a statement on the EBacc since a consultation on plans for its implementation closed at the end of January.

The EBacc, which the government plans to be taken up by 90% of secondary school pupils, has been criticised for marginalising arts in schools [2] if it continues in its current form.

The DfE said it was committed to “improving the life chances of young people” by implementing the EBacc, which it said would provide pupils with a “rigorous academic education”.

“The EBacc forms only part of the school curriculum and all schools must deliver a curriculum that is balanced and broadly based,” it continued.

It comes in the same week that Arts Council England chair Peter Bazalgette argued that improving accessibility to the arts for young people is more important than ever [3].

He claimed it was “vital that arts and culture are not squeezed out” of schools.