The key is something called “Progress 8”by Rebecca Johnes / September 26, 2017 / Leave a comment
The position of arts subjects in England’s schools has been heavily debated in recent years. Arts sector organisations and teaching unions have argued that changes to school performance tables and pressures on school funding have been causing a decline in take-up of arts subjects; these claims have been rejected by the Department for Education.
New research from the Education Policy Institute, published last week, is intended to provide clarity to this debate. It is based on statistical analysis of pupil exam entries over the past ten years, and supplemented by discussions with secondary school teachers and leaders.
It found that by 2016, entry rates to arts subjects by England’s sixteen-year-olds had fallen to their lowest level in a decade, despite several years of small increases up to 2014.
Behind the overall trend there is considerable complexity, relating both to the drivers of the change and the ways in which this change has been experienced by different groups of pupils. The introduction of new accountability measures (particularly the English Baccalaureate and Progress 8), pressures on school budgets, and school-level issues (including the priorities and decisions of school leaders, and attitudes of parents and pupils), are all likely drivers.
The English Baccalaureate (or EBacc) is particularly controversial within the arts sector because it incentivises schools to enter pupils for a selection of five core academic subjects—English, maths, the sciences, a language, and either history or geography. Pupils who attain at least a grade C in each of these subjects are said to have achieved the EBacc. Each school’s EBacc entry and attainment rates are published in performance tables, creating an incentive for schools to prioritise these subjects and potentially limiting curriculum time for the arts.
“Nearly two-thirds of girls take an arts subject, compared to just over 40 per cent of boys”
Our analysis found that pupils who enter the EBacc are less likely to take at least one arts subjects than those who do not, with 49.2 per cent of EBacc entrants taking at least one arts subject, compared to 56.5 per cent of other pupils. But despite concerns about its effects, it is striking that nearly half of pupils who take the EBacc do take an arts subject.
Instead, our report identified Progress 8 as potentially more important. Progress 8 is a school performance measure introduced in 2016 and designed to…