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Arts leaders blast ‘ridiculous’ government EBacc plans

Cassie Chadderton, head of UK Theatre
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Arts leaders have condemned the government’s decision to forge ahead with the controversial English Baccalaureate as “short-sighted” and “ridiculous”.

Last week, the Department for Education responded to the consultation on the EBacc, which closed 18 months ago, and confirmed that a compulsory creative subject will not be added to the curriculum.

The government’s decision comes despite widespread warnings from across the creative sector – including leading figures in the theatre industry – that the move risks damaging the development of future generations or artistic and creative talent. It also comes despite the government having identified the creative industries as one of five priority sectors for the post-Brexit economy.

In its consultation response, the DfE said it had considered suggestions to include additional subjects within the EBacc but decided: “This could reduce pupil choice at GCSE to the point where no other subjects can be studied.”

It adds: “The EBacc, while comprehensive, still enables pupils to continue to study additional subjects that reflect their individual interests and strengths, including the arts subjects.”

It has also now confirmed that it will scrap the target of entering 90% of students for the EBacc by 2020, delaying this by five years.

Responding, head of UK Theatre Cassie Chadderton said the body was “concerned that sidelining the arts from the curriculum will compromise the skills and talent pipeline to our industry”, as well as creating knock-on effects detrimental to the success of the creative industries more broadly.

“A strong arts and cultural education, for young people from all social, cultural and economic backgrounds, is essential if we are to encourage and inspire the next generation of theatre workers,” she said.

The leader of campaign group Bacc for the Future, Deborah Annetts, described the government’s plans as “misconceived and short-sighted”.

“We have no choice but to step up the Bacc for the Future campaign and urge the DfE to think again. We would ask [education secretary] Justine Greening to meet with Bacc for the Future representatives as soon as possible so she can understand first-hand the damage this misguided policy is having.”

Shadow culture secretary Tom Watson highlighted that 71% of consultation respondents had expressed concerns about the EBacc’s ability to provide a broad and balanced curriculum.

“The short-sighted sidelining of all creative subjects is a grave error that we will pay for in economic losses and a less adaptable workforce in the long term. While our creative industries are driving economic growth it is ridiculous to choke off the pipeline of new talent needed to sustain this success story.

“Rather than burying its head in the sand, the government must heed the consultation response warnings and look again at the effects of the EBacc.”

The Creative Industries Federation also criticised the government’s “ill thought-through and short-termist” policy, particularly as it had identified the creative industries as one of five priority sectors.

A statement from Arts Council England added that it would “continue to work with government and other partners to ensure the EBacc does not reduce cultural subject selection or the opportunity to access arts subjects in schools”.

It added: “Looking forward, the Arts Council’s two major policy initiatives, the 25-year Creative Talent Plan and the Durham Commission on Creativity and Education, will be exploring the importance of culture in young people’s lives, and make proposals to government on unlocking creativity in children through education.”