A report published earlier this month by the education think tank EDSK has given a damning verdict on the English Baccalaureate. It argues that there has been a huge decline in the study of creative subjects since the EBacc was first introduced at GCSE level as a flagship government policy in 2010. EDSK say that drama and music have been two of the creativity subjects hardest hit. Statistics produced show a decline in study of these disciplines of 29% and 36% respectively since the EBacc was introduced.
The report poses some serious questions; Is enough room allowed for creativity in the education system? Does it highlight a glaring contradiction in government education and industry strategy? Their statements certainly suggest the latter. ‘Given that the creative industries feature prominently in the government’s Industrial Strategy for boosting the UK economy in the coming years, it seems strange that for the last nine years the government has pursued a method of holding schools to account that works in precisely the opposite direction.’
The government has rejected the claims of EDSK over their perceived aversion to creativity. It points out the number of pupils taking at least one arts subject has remained ‘broadly stable’ since the introduction of the EBacc. In 2018, 44.3% of pupils studied at least one arts subject, down only slightly from 44.7% in 2011. A Department of Education spokesperson also noted that the study in England of music, art and design are all still compulsory up until the age of fourteen.
Since the arrival of the EBacc in 2010, some important, welcome developments have certainly been seen in schools across England. As the report itself says, “substantial increases” have been witnessed in study at GCSE level. This includes in subjects such as Single Sciences (+38%), History (+23%) and Geography (+42%). What’s more, the greater focus the EBacc places on core subjects means that pupils across England are developing the vital associated skills needed in the workplace.
Creative subjects like Drama or Art should not be sidelined. Pupils deserve a balanced, varied education with the maximum scope and exposure to different disciplines. The education system should make sure they are able to make decisions about potential careers. Greater exposure to the creative subjects can only help. They are at a time that is undoubtedly going to be instrumental in their lives. Therefore they should have every academic subject and opportunity available.
The full EDSK report is available on their website; https://www.edsk.org/publications/a-step-baccward/