Music and drama could become ‘preserve of the elite’

01 February 2016

Music and drama could be squeezed out of school timetables and become the ‘preserve of the elite’ as a result of the Government’s plans for most pupils to study the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has warned.

The Government wants at least 90 per cent of school pupils in England to take at least seven GCSEs in EBacc subjects by 2020, more than twice as many students as do so now.

ASCL calculates that these subjects, plus other curriculum requirements, leave only 20 per cent of a student’s time left for creative and technology courses, restricting the number of options they are able to take.

ASCL is concerned that this will lead to a decline in the number of students taking these subjects and that some will become unsustainable. Music and drama are particularly vulnerable because their uptake is already lower than many other courses.

Malcolm Trobe, ASCL Interim General Secretary, said: “It would be a tragedy if an unintended consequence of EBacc is that it becomes impossible for schools to run music and drama courses. The danger is that these subjects will then end up becoming the preserve of the elite, accessible only to those who can afford private tuition.

“We agree with the Government that learning core academic subjects is crucial to the future of young people. We think that the EBacc 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.”

ASCL’s warnings come in its formal response to the Government’s consultation on implementing the EBacc proposals, which closed on 29 January.

The Government’s plan will mean most pupils will take at least seven GCSEs in a prescribed combination of subjects. These are: English language and literature; mathematics; a humanities option with a choice of either history or geography; a language; and at least two science GCSEs.

In its response, ASCL also recommends that religious education should be one of the humanities options. It says that learning about religions encourages tolerance and mutual respect and this is highly relevant in today’s society.

It is also concerned that schools do not have enough teachers in the EBacc subjects and that there are insufficient plans in place to address this shortage.

In particular, ASCL recommends that a review group should be set up by the Government to improve the supply of modern language teachers.