Arts leaders criticise Gove’s English Baccalaureate

Madeleine Bell - News Reporter 12 November 2012

Law and Lloyd Webber lay into Education Secretary as EBacc sidelines arts subjects

Creative leaders have slammed Education Secretary Michael Gove’s plans to replace the current GCSE system with the ‘English Baccalaureate’, arguing that its lack of focus on arts subjects may deprive poorer children of a broad education.

The ‘English Baccalaureate’ requires a minimum of C-grade success in English, Maths, Sciences, a Humanities subject and a language. However, this means that arts subjects are squeezed into the remaining 20 percent of timetable space and will not contribute to the overall EBacc grade.

In a statement on exam reform, Gove stated that GCSEs were “designed for a different age” and that the new exam system will help to put British students on a level with international qualifications, with the first exams taken in 2017.

Subjects such as music, art, drama, dance and DT will no longer form exam criteria and there are fears a two- tier education system may evolve, with children from poorer backgrounds unable to enjoy them. Actor Jude Law has stated that, “The arts must not be allowed to become a middle-class pursuit.”

Other world-renowned artistic figures such as composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, singer Elaine Paige, National Theatre director Sir Nicholas Hytner, and Tate Director, Benjamin Grosvenor voiced their concerns in an open letter to Gove claiming future generations would be unable to experience the “rigorous and broad education they need to thrive”.

They highlighted the threat these plans pose to the future of Britain’s creative industries, which currently account for £16 billion in exports and employ over two million people. After the hugely successful Olympic ceremonies, and Downton Abbey’s success across the pond, second year History of Art student Lizzie Marx commented that, “it now seems out of character for England to suppress our creative heritage…it’s an essential part of our general education.”

Since the EBacc was introduced as a performance measure in 2010, 27% of schools withdrew subjects from the curriculum, with drama (23%) and performing arts (17%) the first to be sacrificed. Many teachers have already voiced opposition to the newly limiting criteria, citing it as “a dark day for education.”

Gove’s focus on a ‘core subjects curriculum’ has led him to enlist Cambridge University to help the Government revolutionize teaching and learning in schools. However, there is a risk that narrowing the curriculum jeopardizes the next generation of UK artistic talent. Second-year musician Sam Landman pointed out the necessity for the government to fill the gap of funding arts subjects, like in China where “hundred of millions are being poured into teaching instruments to the young.”

Gove is likely to face further criticism in his mission to overhaul the system, as society seeks to remind him of the imperative contribution of the arts.

Madeleine Bell – News Reporter