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Campaign to include arts in EBacc steps up

9 November 2012

Cellist Julian Lloyd Webber and violinist Tasmin Little are among a growing number of high-profile musicians, artists and educators who have publicly lent their support to Bacc for the Future (www.backforthefuture.com), a campaign which is urging the government to include creative subjects in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), set to replace GCSEs from 2017.

‘The absence of creative subjects like music from the EBacc beggars belief given how important creativity is to children and our economy,’ said Lloyd Webber. Little commented: ‘Music plays a central role in our education, culture and economy. I urge everyone to sign the Bacc for the Future petition, and I urge the Education Select Committee to hold an inquiry into these proposals.’

Brought in to replace what the government sees as the failing GCSE system, the EBacc already exists as a league table performance measure and is currently awarded to pupils who achieve a C or above in the following five GCSE subject areas: maths, English, science, a language and a humanity (history or geography). From 2017, GCSEs in these subject areas will be replaced by new EBacc certificates, with the ‘full EBacc’ being awarded to pupils who pass six EBacc certificates (two sciences will be required). It is not yet clear what qualifications will exist for subjects excluded from the EBacc.

The Bacc for the Future campaign is arguing for a sixth subject area for creative subjects to be added to the EBacc. It argues that although the EBacc will notionally leave room for pupils to pursue non-EBacc subjects, many schools will hedge their bets by entering pupils for extra science, language and humanities certificates in order to increase the numbers of pupils who will pass the required six – leaving little or no room for the arts.

Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate, said: ‘The proposals do not provide for the arts as being one of the core subjects, and the way in which the proposals have been formulated makes it very clear that art, design, music, drama and dance will be pushed to the margin with very little time in the curriculum for those subjects.’

Speaking to the Guardian, which featured the story on its front page on Saturday, Sir Nicolas Hytner, director of the National Theatre, said: ‘Our concern is that many children and young people will simply miss out: not just on the enjoyment of theatre, but on the important learning and development that comes through taking part in drama from an early age.’ Martin Roth, director of the V&A, commented: ‘The UK is one of the greatest creative nations in the world, as exemplified during the Olympics this summer, but if subjects such as art, design, music, drama and dance are pushed out of the curriculum, Britain’s creative economy will be destroyed within a generation.’

A full list of people who have lent their support to the campaign is available on the Bacc for the Future website, along with news of the campaign’s latest developments. The website also carries a petition – with over 11,000 signatories to date – in support of including creative subjects in the EBacc. The secretary of state for education has so far declined to comment, although the Department for Education told the Guardian that the EBacc ‘does not prevent any school from offering GCSEs in art and design, dance, drama and music. We have been clear that pupils should take the GCSEs that are right for them.’

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