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A-level drama ‘under threat of extinction’, schools body warns

The number of GCSE drama students in England has fallen by 4%. Photo: Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock The number of A-level drama students in England fell by 6% compared with 2017. Photo: Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock
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A-level drama is in danger of disappearing from state schools in England, it has been warned, as the subject is revealed to be among the most cut back on by institutions.

Funding pressures, teacher recruitment challenges and changes in the number of A levels sat by students were cited as the leading reasons for cuts to the range of subjects offered.

According to a survey of 420 members of the Association of School and College Leaders, 28% said they had cut back lesson time, staff or facilities for drama in the past two years.

Drama has already weathered substantial decline over recent years, with entry figures tumbling year-on-year.

The ASCL’s research comes as this year’s A-level results are announced in England. Final figures show that entries for drama fell by a further 6% on last year, to a total of 11,239 students.

Other subjects facing high levels of cuts include German, French and design technology. However, music was the most at risk according to the ASCL, with 32% of school leaders warning of its decline in their schools.

The association’s general secretary, Geoff Barton, said these at-risk subjects “are hanging on by their fingertips in the state sector”.

“Schools and colleges cannot afford to run courses with relatively small numbers of students on current funding levels,” he said, underlining the knock-on effect this could have on the industries in question.

Of those who reported A-level cutbacks in the survey, 86% blamed funding pressures for the reductions.

Other reasons include recruitment difficulties and the recent separation of AS levels and A levels, raised by 54% of people.

The change means that AS levels no longer count towards a student’s final A-level mark and therefore many schools are choosing to focus on the required three subjects instead of offering a fourth option in the first year, as has previously been customary.

Barton added: “The immediate solution is for the government to stop treating the 16-18 sector like the poor relation of education and improve the level of funding as a matter of urgency. In the longer term, we need to boost these subjects at GCSE were they are also under pressure.”

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