BACC for the Future update

On Wednesday 8 February Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister, published a report with a Department for Education (DfE) supported charity called the New Schools Network.[i] The report unsurprisingly endorsed the DfE’s EBacc policy and claimed that the EBacc policy does not undermine the arts in schools.

We thought it would be helpful to re-share some key data that is relevant to the ongoing discussion about the impact of the EBacc on the uptake of creative, artistic and technical subjects.

  • The report excludes design and technology despite this being a central component of the creative industries[ii] on the basis that they are treated separately in the National Curriculum entitlement areas.
  • The report excludes some qualifications without explanation. When you look at all qualifications, fewer pupils took arts subjects in 2016 compared to 2012.[iv] (The Wolf Review led to switch back to GCSEs.[v])
  • The choice of years (comparing 2012 to 2016) is explained but not evidenced. It is as if the report picks the best years to justify its conclusion. The EBacc ‘has been reported on from the 2010 performance tables onwards.’
  • Whilst the paper argues that independent schools are not affected by league tables, publicly available league tables have been a significant factor in decision making at schools of all types. To not include them in these figures seems odd.
  • The report describes the EBacc as ‘just another measure in the school league tables.’ This is not accurate. It is a headline measure (attainment) and it is proposed in the new consultation that it make up two (entry and attainment) of the five new headline accountability measures.
  • The report describes the EBacc as ‘just another measure in the school league tables.’ This is not accurate. It is a headline measure (attainment) and it is proposed in the new consultation that it make up two (entry and attainment) of the five new headline accountability measures.
  • The report is mostly talking about the wrong EBacc. The consultation is only mentioned briefly (a maximum of six times) in the report, but it is this consultation that has galvanised the Bacc for the Future campaign to re-launch following its success in 2013 in halting an all but compulsory EBacc. Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the NAHT is right that “we have not yet seen the full impact of this policy.”

What do we know?

Even if we accept these caveats, further evidence undermines the claim that the arts are no worse off that EBacc subjects:

  • For the first time since 2012 there has been a decline in percentage of pupils taking at least one arts subject (DfE’s own figures).
  • From 2015-2016 there was an 8% decline in uptake of creative subjects (arts + D&T) the largest year on year decline in a decade.[viii]
  • Teacher numbers are declining faster in the arts, either by 10.67% (including D&T) or 8.42% (not including D&T), than overall (2.41%).[ix]
  • Teaching hours are declining faster in the arts, either by 10.03% (including D&T) or 8.02% (not including D&T), than overall (4.03%).[x]
  • Music: Research by the University of Sussex into GCSE music highlights declining hours, fewer teachers and a negative impact on uptake of the EBacc for future years.[xi]
  • Art & Design: The findings of the NSEAD Survey Report 2015-16 show that 33-43% of art and design teachers across all four key stages have reported a fall in time allocated to the subject over the last five years and of these teachers, 93% cited the EBacc as reducing opportunities.[xii]

Conclusion:

Once this partial and selective use of data is dealt with, the report can be seen as making one valid point: There is a correlation between high attainment and arts uptake. Good schools recognise the value of creative, artistic and technical subjects and this is a good thing. But the examples of individual schools are just that: examples.

It is in this context that the EBacc – a performance measure which has no evidence base and is harming creative, artistic and technical subjects in schools – makes no sense.

We urge the Secretary of State for Education to read and listen to the 2,759 consultation responses, 93% of head teachers, 200+ creative industry and education bodies, and 100,000+ individuals who are seeing the harmful impact of the EBacc on subjects of the future, like music and design, on a daily basis. The economy of the future will be built on creativity and enterprise and – post-Brexit – this commitment is even more important.’

[i] The report published on Wednesday 8 February

[ii] Creative industries economic estimates, DCMS, 26 January 2017

[iii] Extract from the National Curriculum: “The arts (comprising art and design, music, dance, drama and media arts), design and technology, [and two other areas] are not compulsory … after the age of 14, but all pupils in maintained schools have a statutory entitlement to be able to study a subject in each of those 4 areas.”

[iv] Education Data Lab, 5:09pm, Wednesday 8 February 2017

[v] Education Data Lab, 1:13pm, Wednesday 8 February 2017

[vi] ASCL Leadership Magazine

[vii] Department for Education, 13 October 2016

[viii] Cultural Learning Alliance, 25 August 2016

[ix] School workforce statistics, Department for Education

[x] School workforce statistics, Department for Education

[xi] University of Sussex, Changes in secondary music curriculum over time

[xii] NSEAD Survey Report 2015-16