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Arts GCSE entries fall another 10% as campaigners warn of impact on creative skills pipeline

The EBacc does not require students to study an arts subject. Photo: Zurijeta/Shutterstock Photo: Zurijeta/Shutterstock
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The number of GCSE students sitting creative subjects this year has slipped by 10% on last year, prompting yet further warnings that young people are missing out on “essential” life skills.

GCSE drama uptake has fallen by 5.3% on 2017, according to this year’s final figures, released by the Joint Council for Qualifications on GCSE results day.

The 10% decline in entries for creative subjects in England comprises statistics for drama, art and design, design and technology, film and TV studies, music and performing/expressive arts.

This is a further 10% on the 9% decline recorded between 2016 and 2017.

Those taking performing/expressive arts fell by 45% – from 15,641 to just 8,646. As of 2017, this course is being phased out of the curriculum, which accounts for the dramatic decline, but the numbers are not being made up elsewhere.

The drop in creative subjects contrasts with an increase for subjects that are part of the English Baccalaureate.

The chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, Deborah Annetts, who also founded the Bacc for the Future campaign, said the decline is set “against a backdrop of the government claiming that the EBacc is not detrimental to the take up of arts GCSEs. This is simply not true.”

She added the EBacc is threatening the futures of young people in a post-Brexit, digital world, and is “actively undermining the skills pipeline and putting the success of our creative industries at risk”.

Meanwhile, Charlotte Jones, chief executive of the Independent Theatre Council, said: “Now more than ever in this terrifyingly uncertain world, it is essential for young people to have the opportunity to express and develop their creativity.

“This year’s GCSE results show a worrying downturn of take up of creative subjects. Our young people are not being prepared for the world they will have to inhabit. Government has to take action on this. Our education system has to be inclusive and relevant.”

Last week, the Association of School and College Leaders warned that A-level drama is in danger of disappearing from state schools in England, after it was revealed that the subject is among the most cut back on by institutions.

A-level drama entries for 2018 are also down by 6% on last year.

What is the EBacc?

The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) was first introduced by government in 2011 as a performance measure for schools.

It comprises a set of core subjects that are compulsory for all those taking the EBacc. These are English, maths, science (either double or triple award), a foreign language and either history or geography.

This means students will take a minimum of seven GCSEs.

Under the government’s current plans, 90% of English secondary school pupils will be studying the EBacc by 2025.


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