GCSE entries for subjects that do not feature in the English Baccalaureate – including drama and music – have fallen again in 2019, recording a drop of nearly 10% year on year.
Arts education campaigners have warned that the government’s consistent emphasis on the EBacc’s academic curriculum is restricting access to creative subjects and forcing young people to have too narrow an education.
Students taking the 26 non-EBacc subjects listed fell by a total of 9.5%. Nine of these subjects were discontinued entirely as part of a larger GCSE reform process.
Entries for arts subjects fell by a total of 17,265.
According to exam regulator Ofqual’s provisional figures for 2019, all but one of the 15 subjects included in the EBacc saw an uptick this year, increasing by a total of 4%. Those with the highest increase included computing, combined science, history and Spanish.
The number of pupils taking drama fell from 58,595 in 2018 to 58,255 in 2019. This is a smaller drop than in previous years. Declines were also seen in music, media, TV and film studies and design technology.
However, performing and expressive arts recorded a small increase – of 905 entries – with art and design also rising in the past year.
Yet a steady decline in drama GCSE levels – entries have decreased by nearly 30% since 2010 – can be seen alongside a reduction in AS and A-level drama uptake.
According to Ofqual, the number of students taking drama at AS level has nearly halved – from 1,350 in 2018 to just 650 in 2019. At A level, the number fell by 9% from 10,260 to 9,320.
Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians and founder of the Bacc for the Future campaign, said she was “deeply concerned” by Ofqual’s new figures, which show opposing trends in the uptake of EBacc and non-EBacc subjects.
Last week, the decision to scrap a list of preferred A-level subjects published by the Russell Group of elite universities was welcomed by the arts sector in the hope that it may encourage young people to study creative subjects.
The facilitating subjects list, which is often credited as forming the basis of the EBacc’s selection of subjects, was dropped in favour of an interactive website that will show a wider range of options and more personalised results.
The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) is a performance measure for schools in England, implemented by the government.
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.
It was introduced for schools in England in 2010. However, under continued government encouragement it has been increasing in prominence ever since.
At present, the government’s aim is to ensure that 90% of pupils sit the core EBacc GCSEs by 2025.