Government snubs industry campaign to ditch ‘damaging’ EBacc

Under the EBacc, students will not be required to study arts subjects at GCSE. Photo: Shutterstock Under the EBacc, students will not be required to study arts subjects at GCSE. Photo: Shutterstock
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Arts education campaigners have vowed to step up their fight against the English Baccalaureate, after the government confirmed it has no plans to add a compulsory creative subject.

It comes as the Department for Education responds to the consultation on the EBacc, which closed 18 months ago.

It has also now confirmed that the target of entering 90% students for the EBacc by 2020 has been delayed by five years.

The EBacc comprises a suite of subjects – English, maths, science, a language and either history or geography – that form a ‘core curriculum’ at GCSE. The list does not include any arts subjects, which has drawn fervent criticism from arts education campaigners and the wider creative sector.

In its consultation response, the government said it was committed to ensuring that all students have access to “an excellent, well-rounded education” based around the core curriculum.

However, 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.”

Responding to the publication, 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 Department for Education to think again. We would ask 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.”

The Creative Industries Federation has also criticised the government’s announcement. Chief executive John Kampfner said: “This response demonstrates that this government is continuing to pursue a policy that is ill thought through and short-termist – in spite of its claims to want to boost productivity and life chances.

“The creative industries have been identified as one of five priority sectors in the government’s industrial strategy in recognition of their economic contribution. However the Department for Education has not answered the sector’s concerns by continuing to sideline creative education in favour of academic subjects.”

In the document, the government once again rebuffed claims that entries to arts subjects have fallen as a result of the EBacc, saying there is “no evidence” that this is the case.

Last month, figures from exam regulator Ofqual claimed that take up for all GCSE arts subjects has fallen by 46,000 in the past year, with drama entries subject to a sharp 9% decline.

The government’s consultation response goes on to suggest that there is a “small positive correlation” between school EBacc entries and arts entries, meaning schools that take on the EBacc also increase arts entries.

Preserving subjects such as the arts was the most-raised issue by the parents that responded to the consultation, the document said.

In a foreword to the document, education secretary Justine Greening confirmed that plans for 90% of students to be entered into the EBacc by 2020 have been abandoned and watered down to 75% of students by 2022.

The 90% goal, published in the original consultation, has now been pushed back from 2020 to 2025.

This was mooted in the Conservative election manifesto.

Greening said she was in “no doubt” that studying the EBacc subjects was right for most pupils, adding: “I am committed to unlocking the potential of all pupils regardless of their background.”

This story was updated on July 20 to include additional responses to the government consultation.