It is very worrying and regrettable that there has been such a significant fall in students choosing to do GCSEs in these subjects, since the new EBacc was announced. It is really disappointing to hear that new primary teachers are not getting adequate training in how to approach art, when this is an aspect of education and self-expression the great majority of young children enjoy and turn to in a natural way.
As you say, it also does not make economic sense to fail to develop to the maximum the kind of creative, artistic and technical skills these GCSE subjects engender, given the very substantial and growing financial contribution made by the creative industries and arts to the UK economy. Indeed several leading employers’ organisations, such as the CBI, Institution of Engineering and Technology, and UK Music and Creative Industries Federation have expressed concerns about the impact of the EBacc on their business areas.
Other countries, such as China, Singapore, Germany, Canada and Australia, attach greater importance to these subjects by including some of them in their national curriculums up to 16 years and beyond. It is also limiting young people’s job and career prospects, as GCSEs in these subjects are needed for some apprenticeships and Level 3 vocational courses.
In my view these subjects should also be protected because they enable young people to develop their artistic, practical and creative abilities, which is of value in its own right, as well as their emotional intelligence and communication skills. They improve wellbeing and can be more motivating than more purely academic subjects, leading to students enjoying more success at school and as a result developing more self-esteem.
For all these reasons, I agree with your point that it is very unfair that young people whose parents cannot afford private school fees should lose out on these opportunities – as you say, children at state schools are equally entitled to a curriculum that recognises the value of the arts and technology to the development of the whole person. We have seen a constant narrowing of the curriculum over the last eight years thanks to the narrow focus from Ofsted and the Department of Education.
At the last general election I stood on a manifesto which committed to review the EBacc to make sure that arts are not side-lined from secondary education. It also pledged to introduce an arts pupil premium to every primary school in England – worth £160 million per year for projects that would support cultural activities for schools over the longer term.
As requested I have written to the Education Secretary to pass on your concerns and as soon as I have received a response I will contact you again.