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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.

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.

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

The EBacc and the Importance of Arts Subjects in Schools

There has long been discussion about the structure of secondary education. Recently this has centred around the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), a school performance indicator linked to the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE).

The EBacc is designed to measure the percentage of students in a school who achieve five or more A* to C grades in GCSE mathematics, sciences, foreign languages, history or geography. It is called a baccalaureate, but it is not like the French baccalauréat, which qualifies students for entry into universities and tertiary education.

In June 2015, the Conservative Party announced as part of its election manifesto that it would make the English Baccalaureate compulsory for every secondary school student in the country. This idea was motivated by two common perceptions, the dumbing-down of GCSEs and the fall in the number of students studying foreign languages and science. The announcement was criticised by teaching unions as being broadly driven by political ideology.

[Image:Wills16]As consultations reach their final stage, the Music Workshop Company spoke to Derin Adebiyi, Public Affairs Officer at The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) about the EBacc. Derin explains the ISM’s concerns that the EBacc is damaging to Arts and the Creative Industries, forcing out creative subjects in a measure designed around accountability rather than educational importance.

“The EBacc proposal was met with concern by many key creative industry figures including Arlene Philips CBE, Robert Lindsay, Philip Pullman CBE, Julian Lloyd-Webber and Harry Treadaway.

The intention is for the EBacc effectively to become compulsory, with the Education Secretary expecting ‘to see at least 90% of students entering the EBacc’ by turning the EBacc from a (relatively) harmless league table into a headline measure for school accountability.

In response to these plans, the Incorporated Society of Musicians has relaunched the cross-sector campaign Bacc for the Future.

The Bacc for the Future campaign was first coordinated by the ISM in 2012 following proposals by the then secretary of state for education, Michael Gove, for a new examination system for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Gove’s plan focused around five academic subject areas, with art, music, design and technology, and drama all absent from the consultation document for the proposed EBacc certificate.

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The campaign successfully called on the Government to slow down the pace of reform, resulting in a partial U-turn and the announcement of a ‘new eight-subject measure of GCSEs’ in 2013.

This revised eight subjects included English, maths, three science subjects, languages, history and geography, and three ‘other’ subjects, such as art, music or religious education, and was known as Progress 8.

Michael Gove himself called the Progress 8 accountability measure, which allowed creative subjects to count towards schools “more meaningful,” when it was introduced in 2013.

[Image: Regional Cabinet]Since the 2015 General Election, the Conservative Government has announced the finer details of their EBacc proposal and launched a consultation on plans to make the EBacc a headline measure for schools, and for it to be given a more prominent role within the Ofsted Framework. The consultation, which was launched in a speech to Policy Exchange by the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, ends on 29 January.

The ISM’s Bacc for the Future campaign, with the backing of over 20,000 individuals and 145 organisations from across the creative sector, is calling for people to respond to the consultation and to write to their MP opposing the EBacc.

Announcing the relaunch of Bacc for the Future, ISM chief executive Deborah Annetts said,

“The Government should seriously reconsider its new EBacc proposal. This is a rejection of the ‘more balanced and meaningful accountability system’ proposed under the last Government.

The Government is rightly focused on jobs, growth and a balanced budget. This policy undermines that ambition. The creative industries are worth £76.9bn per year to the UK economy, and the educational importance of creative subjects cannot be over-estimated. It should be a great concern to all of us that the department for education is playing fast and loose with the country’s economic and educational wellbeing.”

1_ISM_logoTo support the campaign, visit www.baccforthefuture.com to find out more about the petition and how to respond to the consultation.

MWC Supports Protect Music Education

This month, we wanted to bring to your attention the Protect Music Education campaign, a drive launched in April by the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) to rebuild Government support for music education.

The campaign focuses on 5 key points:

  • The Government must unequivocally support music education
  • The Government is telling local authorities to stop funding music services
  • Local authority funding is in addition to national funding
  • The flagship National Plan for Music Education is at risk
  • Music is central to society, education and economy

Protect-M_EThe benefits of music education, particularly amongst children who learn an instrument, have been explored widely in recent years. We have read many times in the media about the improvement in literacy and numeracy, as well as the development of skills including co-ordination, presentation and team working, which come with the study of music. Learning an instrument has been shown to have a positive impact on academic studies.

In 2013, researchers in neuroscience at the Northwestern University, Illinois, found that childhood music lessons also have long-term effects on neurological health. The study demonstrated that participants who had between four and fourteen years of musical training had faster responses to speech sounds than participants without any training, despite the fact that many of them had not played an instrument for about 40 years.

As well as being of benefit to individuals, the creative industries are worth £36.3 billion a year to the UK. The music industry is worth between £3.5 billion and £3.8 billion depending on which measure you use.

Despite this knowledge, funding cuts in music education have been a common trend for a long time. According to a BBC report from 2011, Education Secretary, Michael Gove, insisted he would ensure that all children had access to quality music education, but even with that assurance he was unable to guarantee funding beyond the end of the year.

In 2010/2011, the Government spending on music education was £127.5 million. This dropped to £111.6 million the following year.

Despite the Government’s commitment to support music education, many local authorities are being forced to cut funding, with their main budgets being slashed by at least 30%. Some councils are cutting music education budgets altogether, with the Department for Education recommending in March this year that hubs should no longer be funded by local authorities.

The recent consultation document on local education funding shows that central government expects local government to cease funding music in English schools from 2016 and there is little certainty as to the continuation of funding after the current financial year. The expectation is that music services will be funded through music education hubs and school budgets, and no longer from the Education Services Grant (ESG).

The consultation is part of a plan to make savings of up to £200 million to the ESG, stating, “Schools should take greater responsibility for their own improvement, leaving local authorities to focus on their statutory functions.” These statutory functions are broadly administrative and include planning for the education service as a whole, providing a director of Children’s Services, health and safety, pensions and other services.

Screen shot 2014-05-12 at 18.04.18This recommendation, along with cuts in funding to the Music Education Hubs, puts the National Plan for Music Education at risk.

According to a report in the May 2014 edition of Music Teacher Magazine, the Musicians’ Union are currently backing a campaign to prevent the Council in Cornwall and the Isle of Wight from cutting 92 music teaching jobs, after Councillor Steve Priest remarked on BBC South that he would be, “looking for musicians in the area to teach our children as volunteers as there are many people who can play instruments”.

On May 17th, former winner of the Young Musician of the Year, Mark Simpson, writing in the Guardian, expressed his concern that funding cuts in classical music are depriving children from low income backgrounds of the opportunity to learn an instrument.

The problem is not specific to the UK. In Ottowa, Canada, where in 2012 fewer than half of schools had even a part time music teacher, astronaut and scientist Chris Hadfield criticised cuts in music education, saying, “All these cuts are not doing our children any good, they’re not doing the development of our children any good, and I don’t think they’re doing much for Canada.” Speaking at an event promoting music education in schools which took place on May 5th, Hadfield explained, “Learning to play the guitar taught me to improvise and be creative. Music taught me to be a better astronaut.”

Protect Music Education is attracting support from musicians including violinist Nicola Benedetti and soprano, Dame Felicity Lott, journalists and organisations such as the London Symphony Orchestra and Trinity College, London. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness of the potential threat to music in education.

MWC’s Maria Thomas says, “Many of the musicians here at the Music Workshop Company, received their early musical training through the music services. For generations, local music services run by councils have created opportunities for young people to develop their musical skills and make friendships that last for life. The Music Workshop Company fully supports the Protect Music Education campaign.”

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Add your support to Protect Music Education today, and help ensure that future generations have the chance to benefit from learning music, with all the pleasure and benefits it can bring.

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