Nick Gibb gives evidence to the DCMS Select Committee

18 December 2018

On 12 December the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee took evidence on a current inquiry into the social impact of participation in culture and sport from five government ministers:

  • Edward Argar MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice
  • Steve Brine MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Primary Care
  • Mims Davies MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport and Civil Society
  • Michael Ellis MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Arts, Heritage and Tourism
  • Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP, Minister of State for School Standards

Arts GCSE entries and arts teacher questions

Nick Gibb was asked to explain Ofsted reporting schools removing arts subjects and DfE saying arts entries had increased. He spoke about the proportion of students taking one arts GCSE saying entries have been broadly stable, in that they fluctuate over the years with entries in 2018 and 2012 of 44% of the cohort, 49% in 2015 and 46% of the cohort in 2017.

He was also asked about teacher numbers and said the proportion of teachers had remained broadly stable. (If you are a regular follower of CLA briefings you will know that the number of arts teachers has fallen by 20% since 2010 while the number of teachers in the EBacc subjects of History and Geography has risen.) You can watch the exchange.

Gibb was clear he wanted the number of arts GCSE entries to go up, saying:

‘We want more young people to be taking music to GCSE and to A Level and the way to do that is to improve the curriculum in music and the arts leading up to GCSE so they are well equipped and motived to take those subjects.’


National plan for music education extension

Gibb confirmed they are planning to ‘refresh and update the national plan for music education in the coming months’ and are working with DCMS and ACE to make sure the plan extends beyond 2020.

Project to improve music curriculum quality

Gibb also revealed he is working on a project that has not yet been announced, to improve the quality of the curriculum in the arts, focusing on music in the first instance. He talked about the role of hubs to improve practice in specific subjects, citing the Maths and Modern Foreign Language hubs and said there is a case for further support and help for arts subjects.

Evidence on the value of arts in schools

Damien Collins, Chair of the Committee, asked whether there is a need for a body of evidence about how arts can help schools improve outcomes, or at least a baseline of evidence showing the outcomes arts interventions deliver. Gibb has said he will write to the committee with more information on current work, and we expect this will include information on the RSA and Education Endowment Foundation Learning About Culture project which is seeking to do this.

Advocacy by Michael Ellis MP

There was a clear focus on music in the questions and answers around the arts in schools, however kudos should go to Michael Ellis, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, who several times strongly advocated for dance, interrupting some questioning to point out the value of dance as an artform that also helps children to be physically active. Later on in the hearing he also advocated for the value of arts and culture to help rehabilitate offenders within the justice system.

MPs on the committee also asked questions related to access to the arts and cited the value of studying the arts to careers and employability. 

You can watch the full session on


Image credit: Leeds Museums and Galleries, Leeds City Museum. Credit: Sarah Zagni.