Arts education in England threatened
Teachers fear the exclusion of arts subjects in the new English Baccalaureate ranking could lead to fewer resources
By Anny Shaw. Web only
Published online: 22 September 2011
Arts organisations, including the Cultural Learning Alliance (CLA) and Arts Council England, fear that arts subjects could be cut from secondary school education in England following the introduction of the English Baccalaureate, a way of ranking pupils according to grades achieved in five core subjects: maths, English, science, a language and either history or geography.
Announced in November 2010 via the white paper, “The Importance of Teaching”, the measure has not yet replaced GCSEs as a recognised qualification, although the concern is that the exclusion of arts subjects will lead to a depletion in teaching resources and a removal of the arts from the curriculum altogether. Many secondary schools have already narrowed their pupils' choice of arts subjects in a bid to meet the new measure. “We want a holistic range of subjects and to not shut down opportunities too soon,” says Anna Cutler, the director of learning at the Tate and a member of the CLA's steering group. “If arts subjects are taught with rigour, they add values and competencies and a capacity to think imaginatively and differently, which we need in a society based on innovation. It's what we valued in the Renaissance—this wide range of knowledge that inspires innovation.”
Teachers and practitioners as well as parliament's education select committee are calling for a review of the English Baccalaureate. A report by the committee, published in July, said: “The Department for Education’s decision not to include music and art in the English Baccalaureate could be seen as odd in light of the government’s view that 'Involvement with the arts has a dramatic and lasting effect on young people'.”
The measure has also drawn criticism for mimicking the International Baccalaureate in name, but not in nature. “The International Baccalaureate is almost the complete opposite to this,” says Cutler. “It's very broad. It also cares about diversity, complexity, equality and sustainability; this focus down might seem to conflict with that idea.”
The five core subjects of the English Baccalaureate match those identified by the Russell Group as the most likely to be required for entry onto degree courses.
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