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‘Arts GCSE decline compensated by rise in IT,’ claims Tory education minister

The House of Lords committee will investigate the impact of the 2003 Licensing Act. Photo: Chbaum/Shutterstock Photo: Chbaum/Shutterstock
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The sharp decline in take-up of arts subjects at GCSE has been “more than made up for” by an increase in pupils taking IT and computing, according to Conservative peer John Nash.

The Department for Education minister was responding to a question in the House of Lords about the government’s controversial English Baccalaureate scheme, which does not include any arts subject in its core curriculum.

Last month, examination assessment body Ofqual released its official 2017 GCSE figures, which showed an 8% drop in the number of pupils taking arts subjects – including a 9% slump in drama GCSE take-up.

When challenged on these numbers by cross-bench peer Nicholas Trench, who insisted “the EBacc must be scrapped”, Nash said: “The decline in the subjects to which the noble earl refers has been more than made up for in the substantial increase in the number of pupils taking IT and the now almost 70,000 pupils taking computing.”

Labour peer Genista McIntosh, former executive director of the National Theatre, queried Nash’s response.

She said: “I believe [Nash] said that the loss of entries into the creative subjects is more than made up for by an increased number of entries for IT and computer science. Can he explain in what way those things compensate for one another?”

Nash replied: “I think we all know that the quality of some of these subjects was not what it might be, and that quite a few people were taking some of them not because they suited them, but because they were easier.”

They were speaking during a House of Lords debate on July 3.