Arts in England’s Schools: the current picture

09 May 2018

The current decline – key statistics 

  • Arts GCSE entries have fallen 28% since 2010;
  • Number of hours arts subjects are taught in secondary schools has fallen 17% since 2010;
  • Number of arts teachers is down by 16% since 2010.

The current decline

Many English schools are reducing the numbers of hours, teachers, subjects and choices on offer in Art & Design, Dance, Design & Technology, Drama and Music. This is endangering the talent pipeline to the creative industries and robbing children of the social mobility and opportunities that the arts offer.

Schools are experiencing a real terms cut in funding and are having to choose which subjects they can continue to run. Arts subjects are not included in league tables or performance measures and so are less damaging to cut in accountability terms.

The number of arts teachers and hours the arts are taught in schools are falling

Department for Education figures published in June 2017 show that between 2010 and 2016 the number of hours the arts were taught in England’s secondary schools fell by 17%.

Between 2010 and 2016 the number of arts teachers working in schools fell by 16%.

In comparison the EBacc subjects of History and Geography saw  an increase in the number of teachers and of hours taught of between +11% and +23%.

Arts GCSE entries are falling significantly in England 

For more detail on the decline in arts entries at Key Stage 4 (age 14-16) see the Entries to Arts subjects at Key Stage 4 report by the Education Policy Institute (EPI).

Students who do not study an arts GCSE end their formal education in arts at age 13/14, or at age 12/13 for children in those schools which are adopting a three-year Key Stage 4.  By contrast, in high-performing jurisdictions around the world, including Singapore and Ontario, Canada, pupils are required to study arts subjects to age 17 or 18.

Arts in the School Curriculum

  • Art and Design and Music are compulsory subjects that students have to be taught to the end of Key Stage 3 (age 13/14).
  • Dance is taught within Physical Education and is compulsory until age 16.
  • Drama is included within English and compulsory until age 16 or until students have passed their English GCSE.

Accountability measures

The CLA believes that the fall in provision is a result of the accountability system, most notably the English Baccalaureate which excludes art subjects.

English Baccalaureate/EBacc – Schools are required to publish the number of students that get grades 5 to 9 across five subject areas at GCSE level. These are: English, Maths, Sciences, Modern Foreign Languages and Humanities (History and Geography).

Attainment 8 – EBacc is embedded in this. Pupils’ grades in their 8 highest GCSEs are combined to produce a number score. These 8 Best GCSEs must include their grades in Maths and English Language or English Literature GCSE. Maths, and which ever of English Language or English Literature is higher is then double weighted (known as bucket one). A further three of the 8 Best GCSEs need to be drawn from English Baccalaureate subjects (known as bucket two). The final three slots can be any subject (known as bucket three).

Progress 8 – Students’ progress from their SATs baseline at the end of Primary School and the results in their 8 Best GCSEs. Five of the GCSEs have to be in EBacc subjects. The remaining three can be from EBacc or non-EBacc subjects.

Why the arts matter in our education system

The arts have the power to change and shape young lives. They provide knowledge, skills, values and attributes that can play a significant role in young people's development, creating opportunities for them to express their ideas and form their values, and equipping them to navigate a rapidly changing world.

The arts are not an add-on, or a nice-to-have, but are part of the fabric of our society, and all young people have a right to experience the best, and to be given the opportunity to contribute to the arts and culture of the future.

In schools, the arts should be a vital part of a broad and balanced curriculum, with social, educational, economic and personal benefits for children and young people, and for society as a whole.

Read more in ImagineNation: the value of cultural learning.

Join us!

If you are concerned about the decline of arts in our schools please add your voice to ours by joining the Cultural Learning Alliance.

7 Replies to "Arts in England’s Schools: the current picture"

  1. Arts education is in danger of becoming a hobbyist activity as student engagement is squeezed by over emphasis on the EBacc. The shrinking school budget is also having a negative impact on staffing, time and teaching space

  2. It has been known for years that the development of the imagination is crucial both to intellectual and to emotional activity. You will remember that in the “Double Helix” they knew that they had got the answer because it was “so beautiful” . And music is known to have many healing properties. Could go on for hours, but I am sure it will all have been said, although most likely not heard by the philistines who inhabit ministerial education positions (not since the poet Baker, in any case; he knew a thing or two).

  3. Arts subjects will and already have, become the preserve of the wealthy who can afford to pay the fees for private music, drama, art lessons.
    Please can everyone protest about the loss of our arts subjects in schools, where the interest is usually begun

  4. In schools, the arts should be a vital part of a broad and balanced curriculum, with social, educational, economic and personal benefits for children and young people, and for society as a whole.

  5. Schools are struggling to recruit music subject specialists as students are not encouraged to apply to train as music teachers due to the lack of the subject in the EBacc thus compounding the problem

  6. All the information provided here is helpful – albeit deeply disappointing.
    However the fullest picture is actually worse than this.
    No-one is talking about, investigating or presenting the state of the arts across the educational landscape. What about the primary phase (the next generation of ill-equipped secondary pupils)? Or the worrying scenario emerging in ITE (where future teachers are having less and less investment)?
    Thank goodness for the arts-based subject associations which are always trying to challenge the status quo, defend and promote the subjects wherever they can!

  7. This government is obsessed with outcomes rather than education. The arts make a massive contribution to the economy and creativity is a core skill to be found both all walks of life and all aspects of business. A balanced and varied curriculum is essential in developing a well rounded individual as well as strengthening emotional intelligence.

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