The EBacc and the Arts – An Educational Paradox

Last month our guest blog featured Sarah Evans, a secondary school teacher and professional cellist who shared her concerns about the lack of exposure to classical music for children aged 11 to 14. However, according to the ISM, the problem is only set to deepen as arts subjects become increasingly sidelined within schools.

In December 2015, we shared the ISM’s campaign regarding concerns over the government’s promotion of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) and its negative impact on arts subjects in schools. It has now been over a year since the Bacc for the Future campaign launched, yet according to Mary Bousted, General Secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), the thousands of individuals and organisations who responded to the consultation are still awaiting a response. This is despite the Government’s own consultation principles that state a response should be published ‘within 12 weeks of the consultation or provide an explanation why this is not possible.’

Businesses from Aardman Animations to Yamaha, higher education institutions, teachers, head teachers, artists, musicians, film directors and creative organisations are united in their opposition to the EBacc.

[A filmset at Aardman Animations photographed by Jan Hagelskamp]

[A filmset at Aardman Animations photographed by Jan Hagelskamp]

In making the qualification all-but compulsory in secondary schools by immediate effect, the impact predicted by the campaign is already visible in this year’s GCSE results. There has been an 8% decline in the uptake of creative artistic and technical subjects at GCSE level and a 1.7% decline in the number of students taking at least one arts-based GCSE. Whilst the Department for Education (DfE) clearly supports the arts as demonstrated by music hub funding, Saturday design schools and other initiatives, and it sees the value of technical education (the new Post-16 Skills Plan), the EBacc is at odds with this and with the rest of Government policy, including the Prime Minister’s vision of social mobility. Deborah Annetts blog in the Telegraph from November 11th 2016 is aptly titled The English Baccalaureate limits ambition – it must be scrapped.

This decline can only be detrimental to the hugely profitable creative, artistic and technical economy which is worth more than £500bn a year to the UK economy, in turn closing off access to creative, artistic and technical professions for those whose secondary school curriculum represents an opportunity.

[Image: Grunpfnul, Flickr]

[Image: Grunpfnul,Flikr]

The Bacc for the Future campaign (comprising 200+ organisations and more than 100,000 individuals) is calling on the Government to drop their plans for the EBacc and instead continue with implementing the original proposals for Progress 8 and Attainment 8 for all secondary schools. This is of increased concern in light of the decision to leave the European Union, which, according to the campaign, makes ‘protecting the talent pipeline into our creative industries even more important, and makes the arts more important’.

Julian Lloyd Webber, cellist and principal of Birmingham Conservatoire says,

It is crazy that we should have to be fighting this battle all over again! Countless studies throughout the world have PROVED that children do better in their other subjects if they study music and play an instrument.

We are lagging behind countries like China that have recognised this and where children playing instruments and studying music in school is the norm.

The UK is missing out on talent in an area which has been of enormous benefit to the UK’s economy and prestige and these short-sighted proposals will exacerbate the problem.

1_ISM_logoThe Bacc for the Future campaign is calling for continued support, and for music educators to contact their MP today, requesting a response to the campaign. Read more on the campaign website: http://www.baccforthefuture.com

Without the musical and creative opportunities I was offered for free at school, my life and career would have turned out very differently.

The opportunities presented to me were invaluable, and I truly hope that the Department for Education will give young people the same enriching experiences and challenging opportunities. I believe that musical education for all schoolchildren provides a cultural richness which we must never lose or take for granted.

I encourage the Department for Education to recognise the enormous value of music and creativity in schools and listen to the concerns raised by the Bacc for the Future campaign.

Alpesh Chauhan – Conductor

Without access to music in school, I would have not had the opportunity to realise my potential and fulfil my dream of becoming a professional composer. Without these opportunities in our schools we will undermine our creative economy, and undermine creativity in our society.

I urge the Department for Education to recognise creative subjects in schools and urge musicians, artists, designers, actors, parents and everyone to support the Bacc for the Future campaign and help save creativity in our schools.

Debbie Wiseman MBE – Composer

The Music Workshop Company believes in the importance of Arts education for all and are concerned that plans for the new English Baccalaureate will damage creative education in the UK. We are proud to support the ISM’s Bacc for the Future campaign.

Maria Thomas, Artistic Director, The Music Workshop Company

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