Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The English Baccalaureate and why The Writers' Guild is opposing it

Regular readers will know that I have been banging on for some time now about the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), and the damage it will do to arts subjects in schools.

I'm pleased to be able to say that I have had a small breakthrough in that last week I convinced my union, The Writers' Guild of Great Britain, to add its voice to the growing chorus of opposition against the EBacc.

I wrote a short statement for the Guild's e-bulletin, which went out last week, and which is reproduced below. It turned out to be very timely - only the next day The Guardian carried this article on its front page, and The Telegraph published this letter from arts leaders, outlining their concerns.

Here it is again so you have the facts. Please follow the links to the petition if you value preserving creativity in British state schools.


The English Baccalaureate – a crisis for arts in our schools

By Fin Kennedy, of the Writers’ Guild theatre committee

The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) – at the centre of the coalition government’s shake-up of exams for school pupils – has serious implications for the arts. A growing number of people believe it is an attack not just on young artists and arts audiences, but on the whole notion of creativity as having any place in modern schooling. The Writers’ Guild is joining others in urgently defending this principle and we encourage our members to add their voices to the debate.

Contrary to popular belief (and unlike the French Baccalaureate), the EBacc is not a separate qualification that schools have to opt into and students have to sit. It is an additional award bestowed by the Department for Education (DfE) on those students who attain an A-C grade in five core GCSE subjects. These subjects are: English, maths, science, a humanity (only history and geography count), and a language (including Latin or Ancient Greek). No drama, no music, no painting, no dance, no design & technology. Not a single arts subject is included.

The message from the DfE is clear: the arts are not of value to a rounded education, and are to be pursued as optional extra-curricular activities, for those schools which can afford to do so. The implications for future artists and arts audiences is stark.

As if this weren’t bad enough, school league tables have been retrospectively recalculated according to which schools scored highest in EBacc subjects. Many inner-city schools, which have spent years climbing their way up, with an emphasis on engaging disaffected young people through the arts, suddenly find themselves back at the bottom. None of this has been done in consultation with a single teacher, parent or student. Yet there is already talk of the EBacc replacing GCSEs and A-levels altogether.

A recent survey by the NASUWT found that 43% of teachers are already restricting their students' choice of subjects as a direct result of EBacc, with 39% reporting that the standing of their school had gone down since league tables were reassessed according to EBacc subjects, and 15% having been warned they face redundancy as a result of this re-prioritising of subjects.

Opposition to the EBacc is growing, but time is running out. An EBacc consultation by the Education Select Committee is due to report on 10 December.

Jayne Kirkham, Guild executive Council member and children’s committee chair, says: “A fight to abandon the EBacc altogether is unlikely to succeed. But it is sensible to ask the government: ‘Did you mean to have such a devastating effect? Did you mean to give children such an incomplete, less well-rounded education?’ We should make the case for how arts subjects and exposure to arts for children benefits not just them culturally, but the country financially.”

An online campaign and e-petition ( have been launched, backed by The Stage, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Incorporated Society of Musicians, Dance UK and numerous other arts organisations. The Writers’ Guild will be adding its voice. We urge all members to click on the link, sign the petition, and use the resources there to lobby MPs, Michael Gove and the Department for Education.

No comments: