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EBacc will lead to 130,000 missing out on arts GCSEs, research warns

The number of GCSE drama students in England has fallen by 4%. Photo: Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock Arts Professional claims around 133,000 school students in England would have been denied the opportunity to take any non-core subjects at GCSE in 2016 had the EBacc been compulsory. Photo: Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock
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More than 130,000 young people will lose the option to study the arts at GCSE if the government pushes forward with plans for the controversial English Baccalaureate, new analysis has claimed.

The EBacc in its current form will result in pupils receiving a “restricted diet” of subjects that prioritise knowledge over skills, industry website Arts Professional, which carried out the research, has warned.

The government’s plans include entering 90% of GCSE pupils into the EBacc, which comprises a set of compulsory subjects but does not include any arts provision as mandatory.

Arts Professional’s analysis, based on figures from the University of Cambridge, claims that around 133,000 schools students in England would have been denied the opportunity to take any non-core subjects at GCSE in 2016 had the EBacc been compulsory.

School pupils in England completed an average of 8.6 GCSEs each in 2016. However, 23% took seven or fewer.

The EBacc suite of subjects requires pupils to take seven, meaning many would be unlikely to take any outside this set, the analysis says.

Young people in deprived areas are more at risk, as are those who achieve lower than average grades, given that these groups of people are more likely to complete seven or fewer GCSEs.

Liz Hill, consultant editor of Arts Professional, described the EBacc as “a blunt instrument of social engineering”.

She said England’s education policy was “poised to permit only the brightest and wealthiest to access the creative subjects that will enable them to thrive in this brave new world”.

“The EBacc will cement the advantage of the most privileged over the last. Feeding the disadvantaged a restricted diet of traditional academic subjects that emphasise knowledge over skills will ensure that England remains a divided nation,” she added.

Industry body the Creative Industries Federation and anti-EBacc campaign group Bacc for the Future have called on the education secretary Damian Hinds to meet “as a matter of urgency” as a result.


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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