Arts not at odds with the EBacc, says free schools charity

Free schools support charity finds “clear link” between high performance and including arts subjects alongside the core academic subject.

New analysis of trends in GCSE entries over the last five years, carried out by the New Schools Network, shows that the introduction of the EBacc has had “no discernible impact” on the popularity of arts subjects.

The report suggests that, on the contrary, the number of arts GCSEs being taken in the 2015/16 academic year was higher than in 2011/12 when the EBacc had only just been announced.

In those schools where the percentage of children obtaining the EBacc was above the national average in 2015/16, 73.2% of arts entrants achieved an A*-C grade compared to a national average of 71.7%.

The report states:

This effect is even more dramatic for Progress 8, with schools posting Progress 8 scores of zero and above seeing 76.1% of arts entrants attain A*-C grades – well above the national average. Encouragingly, this correlation is just as strong for disadvantaged students.

Most notably, schools with higher levels of per-pupil GCSE arts entries got above average results in the EBacc, Progress 8 and Attainment 8, suggesting that the best state secondary schools in England are those that combine high expectations in a core of academic subjects with a strong focus on the arts.

According to the analysis, 52% of secondary school students are still not taking any arts GCSEs.

However, the report notes that it’s possible to show a decline in the total number of arts GCSEs being taken since 2011-12 if design and technology is counted.

New Schools Network called on the Government to do more to “signal its enthusiasm for arts education” by making it clearer to schools that academic achievement in the EBacc does not “come at the cost of the arts”.

The charity is also asking arts organisations to take a more proactive role in promoting the arts in schools, including by opening free schools that “marry arts and academic educations”.

Toby Young, Director of New Schools Network, said:

Children shouldn’t be forced to choose between an academic education and an arts education and this report proves they don’t have to. Those schools that combine high expectations in a core of academic subjects with a strong focus on the arts have consistently been getting above average results. Our hope is that this report will help dispel some of the misunderstandings that have arisen and encourage more schools to boost their arts provision and more arts organisations to set up schools.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb commented:

This report puts to rest the argument that the EBacc has stifled cultural education in England’s schools, reaffirming the government’s argument that children can enjoy a successful education in the arts while also excelling in the EBacc. The best schools in the country combine a high-quality cultural education with excellence in core academic subjects and we are committed to ensuring that England’s students continue to have access to both.



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