18 August 2016 at 4.37pm | Comment on this article
The number of students taking performing and expressive arts A-level subjects has dropped by 15.3% since 2015, today’s A-level results reveal.
This year’s most popular subjects remain the same as last year, with Maths, English, Biology, Psychology and History making the top five.
Arts subjects, however, have seen a steep decline: entrants for Dance dropped by 15.6%, Music dropped by 8.8%, and Drama 6.5%.
Speaking to the Guardian, Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:
‘This is something we need to watch carefully in future years as a continuing decline may be partly due to the impact of the EBacc [English Baccalaureate] at GCSE, where little room for additional subject choices means students can be limited in their choices at this higher level.’
Pupils who started Year Seven last September — and all subsequent intakes — will be encouraged to study five core subjects at GCSE: Maths, English, Science, a language and History or Geography, with schools measured on the proportion of pupils taking these subjects. There is no requirement for pupils to study an arts subject, prompting widespread criticism from the Incorporated Society of Musicians and a debate in Parliament in July 2016.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport published a white paper in March 2016, requiring all state-funded schools to provide a 'broad and balanced' curriculum, promoting the 'spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development' of pupils, with the arts being highlighted as an important part of a well-rounded education.
'Experiencing and understanding culture is integral to education,' it said. 'Knowledge of great works of art, great music, great literature and great plays, and of their creators, is an important part of every child’s education. So too is being taught to play a musical instrument, to draw, paint and make things, to dance and to act. These can all lead to lifelong passions and can open doors to careers in the cultural and creative sectors and elsewhere. Without this knowledge and these skills, many children from disadvantaged backgrounds are excluded from meaningful engagement with their culture and heritage.'
'Both the Arts Council and arts organizations are firmly of the view that the arts should be strongly represented in the curriculum; we campaign and argue for that. But we need to be tuned in to all the opportunities that exist for us across the whole activity of a school. What matters is that children and young people have access to the best of art and culture.'
This year's arts subject results also show a pronounced gender split: boys make up just 10.23% of candidates overall, but continue to outnumber girls in music, 55% to 45%.
Despite the fall in candidate numbers, the percentage of students achieving A or A* grades in arts subjects is increasing year-on-year. This year it stands at 19.4%.
This year 25.8% of total grades were an A or A*, compared to last year’s 25.9%.