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Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Further drop in creative subject uptake

12:56, 31st January 2018

The uptake in creative subjects at GCSE has declined by 8% between 2016 and 2017, according to Government figures.

The percentage of state school pupils taking ‘at least one arts subject’ also declined from 48% to 46.5%, a further fall.

The embattled position of creative subjects in schools is supported by a survey of 1,200 schools conducted by the BBC.

Of the schools that responded, 90% said they had cut back on lesson time, staff or facilities in at least one creative arts subject. 40% were spending less money on facilities, more than 30% had reduced timetabled lessons, and some reported having fewer specialist staff.

In both art and music, one in ten schools said they are increasingly relying on voluntary donations by parents, and three in ten said they feared they would have to drop at least one creative subject at GCSE.

The Musicians’ Union has responded to the BBC survey by calling for the government to review its education policy, including the EBacc, with general secretary Horace Trubridge warning of ‘increasing numbers of children can have music lessons only if their parents are able to pay for them. This will do nothing to increase diversity and opportunity in the music industry.’

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the ISM and founder of Bacc for the Future, said: ‘These deeply concerning figures only add to the growing body of compelling evidence that the English Baccalaureate or EBacc – which excludes creative subjects from key school league tables – is undermining creative subjects in secondary schools. For the first time in at least seven years, the uptake of GCSE music has fallen below 40,000.

‘We urge the Department for Education to rethink their EBacc proposal before any further damage is done.’

Diane Widdison, the MU’s national organiser for education and training, said: ‘The policy section of our Education Report highlighted that the EBacc, a performance measure, has had an extremely damaging effect on school music departments. This is because the EBacc forces schools to prioritise entering pupils for seven GCSEs in so-called core subjects, not including the arts. The result of this has been that school music departments are rapidly closing down, our members are losing their jobs as music teachers, and GCSE entries are plummeting.

‘We are therefore pleased to see this new piece of research from the BBC, which strongly supports our own observations. We call on the government to review the EBacc to ensure that music and the arts don’t disappear from the curriculum completely.’

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