Lord Kenneth Baker: GCSE reforms have ‘done a lot of damage’ to arts and technical subjects

Aug 19, 2019

The creator of the GCSE has condemned the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) in a letter to the new education secretary Gavin Williamson, the Telegraph reports.

Lord Kenneth Baker points out that since 2010, entries for DT have fallen by 65 per cent, dance by 46 per cent, drama by 29 per cent and music by 24 per cent. He has blamed the EBacc, established by former education secretary Michael Gove, for “squeezing out” technical, cultural and creative subjects from secondary schools.

Lord Baker said that the Ebacc has “done a lot of damage” to subjects such as design and technology (DT), drama, music, art and dance, which have seen “absolutely devastating” drops in entries over the past decade. 

The letter – signed by the former education secretaries Lord Blunkett and Baroness Morris as well as the former Ofsted chief inspectors Sir Michael Wilshaw and Sir Mike Tomlinson – argues that “the imposition of the EBacc” has been a significant factor in these steep declines. 

To read more, visit the Telegraph website here (you will need a free account to view the premium article). 

This comes after anti-EBacc group ‘Bacc for the Future’ reported that “the EBacc is failing on its own terms: it is entered by just 38% of students in state-funded schools, against the Government’s target figure of 75% by 2022 and 90% by 2025.”

The Ebacc has been a “costly and damaging experiment” which has “failed and is virtually indefensible”, the letter concludes as it urges ministers to allow students greater choice over their GCSE subjects aside from English, maths and science which should remain compulsory.

Unsurprisingly, this is also having a knock-on effect on the number of UK students sitting A levels in creative subjects, with around 6,500 fewer students taking Art and Design, Music, Design and Technology, Drama, Media, Film and Television Studies, and Performing and Expressive Arts.

This represents a 6.5% decline since 2018 – a larger decline than 17-18 (4.3%) and 16-17 (2%). Data released by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) shows that this year, 92,369 out of the roughly 801,000 students sitting A Levels took at least one creative subject, accounting for just 11.5% of all exams.

Read more about the decline in creative A levels on the Arts Professional website.

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