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English school exam results show shift away from creative subjects

Royal Academicians “unanimous” in concern at fall in teenagers studying arts

by Javier Pes  |  25 August 2016
English school exam results show shift away from creative subjects
The Brit School students dancing for the arts & creativity in schools outside Parliament. (Image: © Brian Slater)
A campaign to persuade the UK government to include art and other creative subjects in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) has the “unanimous backing” of Royal Academicians, Christopher Le Brun, the president of the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) who is an artist, tells The Art Newspaper. “Art, dance and music combine physical intelligence with analytical skills,” Le Brun says, stressing the importance of the art room in schools, especially for non-academic teenagers.

More than five million teenagers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland hear their GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) grades today (25 August). The number of students taking "non-core" art and design subjects continues to fall as government reforms focus on students studying “core” subjects, including English, mathematics and sciences. This year’s results show the number of students choosing to study GCSEs in art and design fell 5.9%, reports the TES (Times Education Supplement). The shift away from creative subjects is the latest indication of the impact of the EBacc.

Critics argue that the exclusion of art, music and drama from the EBacc will have long-term negative consequences for the arts and creative industries in England. A petition to Parliament, signed by more than 100,000 people and supported by 200 arts organisations as well as leading artists, architects, actors and musicians, led to a debate in Westminster in early July. Teenage musicians and dancers performed outside Parliament on the day.  

In the debate, held at Westminster Hall in London on 4 July, the schools minister, Nick Gibb, defended the government’s emphasis on an academic curriculum for 14- to 16-year-olds, and rejected claims that the number of pupils choosing “non-core” arts subjects had declined since the introduction of the EBacc in 2010.

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