Policy and practice round-up February 2019

26 February 2019

This month we bring you news of Amanda Spielman talking about the negative impact of a narrow curriculum; the Education Select Committee asking about the negative impact of the EBacc; DfE figures revealing a decline in Arts GCSEs; a Music Education State of the Nation report; the RSA Cultural Learning Evidence Champion’s handbook; and a blog from our Advisory Panel member Pauline Tambling.

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted: narrow curriculum negatively impacts on children

Amanda Spielman, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools at Ofsted, continued to highlight how a narrow curriculum negatively impacts on children fulfilling their potential in her speech to the Wonder Years curriculum conference at the end of January. This of course follows the publication of the draft Inspection Framework Ofsted put out for consultation mid-January that is seeking to reverse the narrowing of the curriculum and shortening of Key Stage 3 – all things that have damaged children’s access to arts subjects.

‘When it comes to secondary school, that rich breadth of curriculum should continue. For almost all children, there is no reason to start narrowing down their learning before the age of 14. It really does pain me to think about how many potential historians, artists, linguists, musicians and designers we’ve lost because we made them drop subjects almost before they’d begun, so they may never have discovered their talents in them.’


Education Select Committee probes Ofsted on negative impact of the EBacc

At the Education Select Committee on 5 February Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Committee, asked Amanda Spielman of Ofsted whether the EBacc is too narrow and crowds out technical and creative subjects, and whether there was scope for reforming the EBacc. Hearing an ex-Conservative Education minister ask this was very encouraging.

Halfon asked that given the average number of GCSEs taken is 8.1, would that mean the EBacc becomes the whole curriculum children study?

Spielman was very clear in her response that Ofsted believes creative subjects are not being squeezed out by the EBacc subjects. Spielman said that since 2003 GCSE entries had grown in Religious Studies, not EBacc subjects. She did qualify this answer by saying History and Geography entries had increased. Spielman said their analysis of Key Stage 4 entries showed overall GCSE entries have been displaced by non GCSEs since 2003.

You can watch the whole Committee meeting here.

DfE figures deliver more bad news about arts entries to GCSEs

The Department for Education (DfE) analysis of summer 2018 GCSEs was published at the end of January. As usual it includes a section on arts GCSEs, although the numbers inexplicably always include some AS levels as well.

The data shows a third consecutive year of falls in students taking at least one arts subject. With only 44.3% of students taking one or more arts subject. This chimes with our data on GCSE entries that show an overall decline in Arts GCSE entries of -10% between 2017 and 2018, and -35% since 2010.From page 21 of Key stage 4 including MultiAcademy Trust performance, 2018 (revised)

Music Education State of the Nation report from ISM & APPG for Music Education

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Music Education, in partnership with the University of Sussex and the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), has released a new report entitled Music Education: State of the Nation. If you want to know all the key data on music in schools this should be your first call.

The report sets out how the EBacc is a failing policy:

‘To date the target of 75% (90% by 2025) for EBacc take up has failed to be met by a very long way. Currently the number of students studying the EBacc has plateaued at around 38% in state-funded schools. Indeed the number of students passing the EBacc was just 16.7% in 2017/2018. And yet this failing policy is causing untold damage to music and many other creative subjects in our schools. And for what?’

Government has set a target of 75% of pupils entering the EBacc by 2022 (90% by 2025). Currently only 38% of students in state-funded schools are entering it. Given a lack of teachers, especially in languages, it is all but impossible for schools to increase teaching of the EBacc subjects to meet the targets. And this is aside from the obvious drawbacks of pushing students to study a narrow curriculum that will not help them be work ready or fill skills shortages, all identified in the recent Edge Foundation report Towards a Twenty-First Century Education System.

The report challenges the Government’s position that music GCSE is broadly stable. The DfE’s own statistics show a fall of 17% in music GCSE since 2015, and DfE teacher workforce data shows that at Key Stage 3 there has been a drop of 26.7% in music teaching hours since 2010.

You can download the full report from the ISM’s website.  

RSA Learning About Culture project launches Cultural Learning Evidence Champions’  handbook

You may remember that the RSA is running the Learning About Culture project which is investigating the role that cultural learning plays in improving educational outcomes for children.

As part of the work they have been looking at how the cultural sector uses evidence to improve practice and have created a network of evidence champions. This handbook has been produced to support the work of the evidence champions and provides a handy guide on how to ‘do’ evidence and evaluation.

The guide covers the attitudes, approaches and key skills of an Evidence Champion. It includes advice on the things you can do right now everyone you collaborate with, to make arts and cultural learning more evidence-rich. 

Download the guide.

How did we get here? By Pauline Tambling

‘It seems we have drifted into a world where ongoing funding for all schools and colleges has been replaced by initiatives, projects and schemes that make great announcements but do little to deal with real issues of entitlement and the unfairness of who gets good arts education.’

If you haven’t had a chance to read this blog by Pauline Tambling, one of our Advisory Panel members, it is a thought-provoking read on the value of arts education and the current state of the nation in terms of cultural learning. Highly recommended.