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One year on, anti-EBacc campaigners vow to continue fighting

Under the EBacc, students are not required to study arts subjects at GCSE. Photo: Shutterstock Under the EBacc, students are not required to study arts subjects at GCSE. Photo: Shutterstock
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Arts leaders have reiterated criticisms of the government’s “damaging” education reforms, claiming their exclusion of the arts has still not been addressed.

The criticisms come a year to the day since the Department for Education launched a consultation on the English Baccalaureate, which the government hopes will be taken up by 90% of secondary school students.

While setting out a number of obligatory subjects for GCSE students, the EBacc does not include any creative subjects as compulsory.

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians and founder of the Bacc for the Future campaign, said: “It is a whole year since the former education secretary proposed a new, all-but-compulsory, EBacc. Since the launch of the consultation we have seen an 8% drop in uptake of creative, artistic and technical GCSEs as these subjects are excluded from the EBacc.”

“The Bacc for the Future campaign has gone from strength to strength, gathering support from more than 200 organisations across design, architecture, engineering, music and the whole of the creative industries and more than 100,000 individuals. We urge the new education secretary to drop the un-evidenced and damaging EBacc,” she added.

Despite campaigners’ efforts, the government continues to push ahead with plans for the EBacc in its current form.

Schools minister Nick Gibb said in July: “If we were to extend the EBacc by including an arts subject, pupil choice would be restricted, not expanded. Such a measure would prevent pupils from taking additional non-arts subjects of their own choosing.”

Sue Wyatt, chair of industry body One Dance UK, cited a drop in the uptake of GCSE dance as a direct impact of the EBacc’s implementation.

“The EBacc consultation is a vital part of the process of ensuring accountability measures still enable schools to meet the needs and aspirations of all their pupils, and the lack of response by the government is hindering this process,” she added.

The number of young people taking a GCSE in dance has fallen by 9% in the past year, with those studying for a GCSE in drama decreasing by 4% and performing arts falling by 9%.

Other figures condemning the EBacc include Shakespeare’s Globe chief executive Neil Constable, who accused it of leaving “little room for students to study creative subjects”, and Neil Griffiths, director of the charity Arts Emergency.

Griffiths said the measure had created a “false hierarchy of subjects” that would further embed social inequality in the arts.

Drama school principal Mark Featherstone-Witty, who founded the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, added: “The purpose of learning is to find out what you are good at and love doing. Why is this government deciding this for youngsters they don’t know and haven’t asked?”

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