Cultural Education in England’s Schools: February 2014 Briefing

08 February 2014

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There is a series of disincentives at work which are affecting the provision of arts subjects in schools:

  • English Baccalaureate – Schools are required to publish the number of students that get A-C grades across 5 subject areas at GCSE level. These are: English, Maths, Science, Modern Foreign Languages and Humanities (History and Geography).
  • Attainment 8 – 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. A further three of the 8 Best GCSEs need to be drawn from English Baccalaureate subjects. The final three slots can be any subject.
  • Progress 8 – Students’ progress from a baseline when entering secondary 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.
  • Discount Codes – The codes ‘discount’ subjects considered too similar in the school league tables. New Discount Codes introduced in 2013 now mean several arts subjects at Key Stage 4 are considered so similar that only one counts towards a school’s league table. These include disciplines such as Graphic Design and Ceramics. Dance is also equated with Drama. This does not affect the sciences.

All the above in practice could mean that secondary schools choose to focus on EBacc subjects as the safest way to ensure they meet multiple accountability targets. Taking GCSEs in only EBacc subjects could result in a total of eight GCSEs: Maths, English Language, English Literature, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, History or Geography and a modern foreign language.

  • National Curriculum – The National Curriculum has been reformed with slimmed down requirements in Art & Design and Music which must be taught to age 14. Drama is now a much smaller part of the English curriculum. Dance is within the PE curriculum and not acknowledged as an art form.
  • Teacher training – places in Arts subjects were drastically cut in 2012.


2010 515

2012 320

Percentage change: -38%


2010 570

2012 380

Percentage change -33%


Provision of Arts GCSEs

– In 2012 15% of schools reported they had withdrawn an arts subject because of the EBacc. 21% of schools with a high proportion of free school meals (FSM) reported withdrawing arts subjects.

Less Arts GCSEs taken

– In 2013 entries to Arts GCSEs fell by 14% compared to 2010, the year the EBacc was introduced.

Without GCSE Art subjects, specialist Arts teachers are not being recruited

– Schools recruit based on GCSE offer. Lack of specialist Arts teachers has an impact on the quality of the Key Stage 3 Arts curriculum and teaching.

Arts pushed in to after and out-of-school provision

– in a speech on 3 February Michael Gove cited a longer school day as an opportunity for extra-curricular activities like ‘orchestras, choir, drama’.


Disadvantaged children don’t or can’t access out-of-school classes:

  • Sutton Trust research: 68% of professional parents versus 31% of lowest income parents pay for music, drama or sport lessons.
  • DCMS Taking Part data: 33% of 11-15 year old boys and 20% of girls do not access arts outside of schools and children from lower socio-economic backgrounds have less access to arts than children from wealthier families.
  • In 2009 Ipsos MORI found 77% of parents with A Levels or a degree reported their child as having participated in cultural activities with the family in the past year compared to 60% of parents with no qualifications. The same study also found that there are ‘no statistically significant differences in terms of children’s participation with their school by parental qualification level’.


We want every child, regardless of circumstance and background, to have a high quality cultural education.

To counteract the current range of disincentives to providing arts in schools we are seeking:

  1. STEM to STEAM – the ‘A’ of Arts subjects to be added to the STEM subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.
  2. New guidance from Ofsted that no Children’s Centre, School, Youth Service, Academy or other setting should be judged beyond ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted unless they offer a broad and balanced curriculum which includes the arts and culture.
  3. Ofsted subsidiary guidance on evaluating pupil’s spiritual, moral, social and cultural development to include a more robust definition, in order to secure effective cultural learning outcomes for pupils.
  4. Reforms to Discount Codes so that different artforms do not discount each other.
  5. Film incentivised in the National Curriculum. Film was removed from the new National Curriculum which becomes statutory in September 2014.
  6. Delivery of the commitment to develop a National Plan for Cultural Education in the Henley Review of Cultural Education published by the DfE and DCMS.
  7. Growth of the numbers of teacher training places in Arts subjects, to reflect the need for high-quality arts teachers in schools, and to reverse the 35% decrease in Art & Design and Music places made in 2012.
  8. Excellent, innovative, and fit for purpose GCSEs for arts and cultural subjects.
  9. Every publically-funded cultural organisation delivering learning should have at least one Learning trustee or board member.
  10. The Secretary of State for Education should take on a more overt leadership role and communicate directly with schools, head teachers and local authorities about the value and critical importance of cultural learning.


1. Working on a paper covering what STEM to STEAM could mean in practice in the UK.

2. Consulting with the cultural learning sector on new specifications for Arts GCSEs in England as part of the Arts Council England work on Key Stage 4.

3. Working to influence the development of party manifestos in the run up to the 2015 general election to ensure that a commitment to cultural learning is included.

4. Using intelligence gathered during our 2013 National Curriculum roundtables on Art & Design, Dance, Drama, History and Music to compile inspiring guidance for schools and teachers.

5. Analysing and disseminating data and information about the provision of Arts subjects in schools, including both the take up of Arts GCSEs and also the impact of learning through and about the arts on pupil outcomes.


  • Brief your board and governors about the disincentives to arts in schools and ask them to back STEM to STEAM and changes to Ofsted and Discount Codes

Your chairs, governors and board members are key influencers and we need them to make the case for change to politicians, the press, headteachers, funders, policy makers, decision makers and advisors. We also need them to recruit the business community to this cause – we need voices from the commercial sector speaking up about the importance of the arts and culture.

We know this is a complex issue, if you would like us to talk to your Chair directly about this, just get in touch:

  • Become a school governor

Described by a headteacher as ‘the most important thing cultural professionals can do for cultural learning’: being a school governor gives you insight in to the education landscape and allows you to provide valuable advice on how to secure high quality cultural learning for your school. Governors for Schools reports that there are approximately 30,000 governor vacancies.

  • Use the evidence

Use our Key Research Findings, our ImagineNation document and our Arts GCSEs research document to make the case to your local school and community. Tell us what other evidence and statistics you need.

  • Write to your MP in support of STEM to STEAM and talk to them about cultural learning

This webpage tells you how.

Use the disincentives information and the evidence to help you make your case and ask your MP to write to the Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove) on your behalf. The system is structured so that he will have to respond to you.