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Peers criticise lack of mandatory creative subjects in EBacc

Former education secretary and life peer Estelle Morris, who took part in the debate. Photo: Flickr Former education secretary and life peer Estelle Morris. Photo: Flickr
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Members of the House of Lords have criticised the government’s decision to exclude creative subjects from the English Baccalaureate, claiming “an EBacc without the arts should be unthinkable”.

Artist and crossbench peer Nicholas Trench, who tabled the debate, expressed concern at the effects a curriculum without compulsory arts subjects could have on young people.

“An EBacc without the arts should be unthinkable; a core curriculum without the arts will not raise standards but lower them,” he said.

Plans for the EBacc, which the government has said it hopes will be used by 90% of secondary school pupils, requires GCSE students to study English, maths, science, a language and either history or geography.

Trench cited recent figures from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which showed that the UK’s creative industries are now worth £84.1 billion per year to the economy.

“Why then, even using the government’s own arguments about education and work, is not the huge importance of the creative industries being reflected in a similar status for arts and arts and design education in our schools?” he asked.

He added: “The EBacc is a flawed measure. It should either be radically reformed, or dropped entirely.”

Trench’s sentiments were echoed by fellow peer Valerian Freyberg, who said it was “extremely difficult to understand” why an EBacc with no cultural component was being encouraged by the government.

“All the evidence suggests that the withdrawal of creative subjects and the teacher training in these subjects will have a knock-on effect not just in the cultural sphere but across industry,” he added.

Liberal Democrat peer Mike Storey said that without creative subjects on the core curriculum, the number of arts teachers also declines, in what becomes a “vicious circle”.

The debate comes shortly after the closure of a government consultation on the EBacc plans, which propose to make the system a “headline measure” of secondary school performance.

Last month, schools minister Nick Gibb claimed that concerns over the lack of arts subjects in the EBacc were unfounded, claiming it allowed pupils to participate in creative subjects outside the formal curriculum.

As part of the House of Lords debate, former education secretary Estelle Morris said she did not think the government was against subjects such as music, art and drama, but that it had “forgotten the point about priorities”.

“When they say that these subjects are important, what is heard is that the other subjects are not important,” she added.

She went on to say: “The English Baccalaureate is not a broad and balanced curriculum and that, by law, is what we are meant to be achieving.”

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