The number of teenagers taking creative subjects at GCSE has dropped considerably in the past five years.
Entries for GCSE design and technology in England fell by nearly a third (32%) between 2012 and 2017, a new analysis by the Press Association shows, while performing and expressive arts entries dropped by 26% over that same period.
Media, film and TV studies entries have dropped by 22% and drama entries are down 14%; entries for GCSE music are down 8% and art and design entries are down 1%.
Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), told the Independent: “Maintaining the skills pipeline is vital to the future of the creative industries and drop in uptake of arts GCSEs would directly affect this.”
Critics – including industry experts and headteachers –of the argue government’s reforms (which prioritise core academic subjects) say these are fuelling the decline.
The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) – a league table measure introduced in 2011 – for example, only judges schools on the number of students that take up maths, English and science, a foreign language and either history or geography at GCSE. Creative arts subjects are not deemed priority.
“Research shows that children with an arts deficit are disadvantaged educationally and economically while their more fortunate peers – generally from more affluent backgrounds – are more resilient, healthier, do better in school, are more likely to vote, to go to university, to get a job and to keep it.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said schools are trying to keep a broad curriculum “against impossible odds.”
On the decline in arts subjects, he said: “This has been caused by a combination of reforms to school performance tables which prioritise traditional academic subjects over the creative arts and a real-terms reduction to school funding which has forced schools to make cuts to the curriculum.”
Ministers have said they want to see 90% of students taking the EBacc – which does not include any arts or design and technology subjects – by 2025.
Deborah Annetts Annetts, founder of Bacc for the Future – a group of more than 200 organisations calling on the government to review the EBacc – told the Independent: “Our creative industries are worth £92 billion a year to the UK economy, and are growing faster than any other part.
“With growing automation of other roles and an impending Brexit, maintaining the skills pipeline to these industries will become all the more important.”
Sam Cairns, co-director at the Cultural Learning Alliance, called it a “social justice issue”. She said: “Research shows that children with an arts deficit are disadvantaged educationally and economically while their more fortunate peers – generally from more affluent backgrounds – are more resilient, healthier, do better in school, are more likely to vote, to go to university, to get a job and to keep it.”
Caroline Julian, head of policy and public affairs at the Creative Industries Federation, said: “The exclusion of creative subjects from the EBacc is a key part of the problem, signalling to schools across the country that creativity is not fundamental to future skills and jobs.
“This is damaging to our future economy, as the rise of automation will increasingly require the next generation to be equipped with both creative and technical skills.”