Music and drama could become ‘preserve of the elite’ if Ebac proposals go ahead, union warns

Music and drama could be squeezed out of the timetable if the government’s proposals around the English Baccalaureate (Ebac) go ahead, a headteachers’ union has warned.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) is concerned that the number of students taking courses like music and drama will drop if the government requires most pupils to study the Ebac subjects.

The government wants at least 90 per cent of school pupils in England to take at least seven GCSEs in Ebac subjects by 2020. These subjects include: English language and literature; mathematics; a humanities option with a choice of either history or geography; a language; and at least two science GCSEs.

But the ASCL argues that these subjects, and extra-curriculum requirements, would leave only a fifth of a student’s time for creative and technology courses.

Malcolm Trobe, ASCL interim general secretary, believes there is a danger that music and drama will become “the preserve of the elite, accessible only to those who can afford private tuition”, if the Ebac makes it more difficult to run the courses.

He added: “We think that the Ebac needs to be more flexible to leave room for creative and technology subjects. These subjects are important for young people and for the economy. Creative industries alone are worth nearly £80 billion a year to the UK and account for 1.7 million jobs.”

The ASCL’s warnings have been made in its formal response to the government’s consultation on implementing the Ebac proposals, which closed on Friday.

It has voiced its concerns following an online petition, signed by more than 60,000 people, calling for arts subjects to be included in the Ebac.

The petition says: “Numeracy and literacy are certainly key to future success in life, but it is wrong to say that the arts are not worthy of inclusion in a measure used to grade a school’s success.

“Our children deserve a broad, creative education, but the Ebac is giving rise to massive declines in numbers of students able to choose arts subjects, at a time when the CBI demands more creative people.”

If the petition receives 100,000 signatures before May 9, it will be considered for debate in the House of Commons.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “ASCL aren’t just being disingenuous, they are ignoring the facts. All young people should study the core academic subjects that give them the skills to succeed but it is a myth to suggest this must come at the expense of the arts.

“Last summer’s results showed thousands more students taking GCSEs in arts or music subjects compared to the previous year and the percentage of pupils in state-funded school with at least one arts GCSE has increased since the Ebac was introduced.

“The arts are a key component of the broad and balanced education we expect all pupils to receive and this government has invested millions in arts projects, including schemes to help talented musicians and dancers from all backgrounds attend world-class institutions like the Royal Ballet School.”

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