Policy and Practice round-up September 2019

04 September 2019

This month we bring you news of three former education secretaries calling for the end of the EBacc; Bob and Roberta Smith calling for every child to study an arts GCSE; DfE removing the Facilitating Subjects reference on the EBacc webpage; MP Ed Vaizey calling for arts at the heart of the curriculum; details of all the new Arts and Education Ministers; two reports from the Sutton Trust and Teacher Tapp, and the Nuffield Foundation, on teacher recruitment; that Arts subjects are the most likely to be taught by specialist teachers in secondary schools; and Arts qualifications being de-funded.

Three former Education Secretaries call for the end of the EBacc

Lord Baker – who introduced GCSEs – Lord Blunkett, and Baroness Morris of Yardley, all former Education Secretaries, and two former Ofsted chief inspectors, Sir Michael Wilshaw and Sir Mike Tomlinson, wrote to Gavin Williamson on 18 August calling for the English Baccalaureate to be scrapped and branding it a ‘costly and damaging experiment’. An element of their argument is the impact of the measure on technical, cultural and creative subjects. You can read more about the letter in The Telegraph (registration required) and the TES.

Bob and Roberta Smith: every child should take an arts GCSE

The artist Bob and Roberta Smith followed up this call on 22 August with an article in the Guardian calling for every child to be required to take at least one arts GCSE, and lamented the effect of the EBacc on secondary education:

‘Many headteachers ignore the Ebacc league table and sensibly focus elsewhere when it comes to celebrating their schools, but nonetheless the Ebacc is skewing the focus of our young people and damaging their wellbeing, their voices and their careers.’

Bob and Roberta also highlighted that independent schools have continued to offer an arts-rich education, and the impact on the diversity of the arts workforce if children in state schools do not have access.

‘Our culture is made from all of us – rich and poor, black and white – and so should our art be made by all people, not just the wealthy who can afford to pay for music lessons and independent schools.’

DfE ditches statement suggesting top Universities support EBacc subjects

On 20 August Schools Week highlighted that the Department for Education has updated its web page on the EBacc and quietly removed the statement that says that the EBacc is made up of subjects the Russell Group Universities say ‘open more doors to degrees’.

The page did say: The EBacc is made up of the subjects which the Russell Group says, at A Level, open more doors to more degrees. It has been changed to: The EBacc is made up of the subjects which are considered essential to many degrees and open up lots of doors.

This follows on from the Russell Group scrapping of the Facilitating Subject list – upon which the EBacc is based – back in May.

Ed Vaizey MP: The arts has to be at the heart of the curriculum

Ed Vaizey MP a previous Minister for Arts who continues to be a strong advocate for arts education spoke on 17 July about the importance of music education for ‘our creative industries and the wellbeing and life chances of young people’ saying: ‘The arts has to be at the heart of the curriculum.’You can watch his speech on Parliament TV.

(Vaizey was one of the 21 Conservative MPs who voted against the government on the 3 September and have now had the Tory Whip removed. Other rebells included Philip Hammond, until last month our Chancellor, and 14 former ministers.)

New arts and education Ministers

With the arrival of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister new ministers have been appointed at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and at the Department for Education (DfE).

The Rt Hon Nicky Morgan is now Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Many of you will remember that Morgan is a previous Education Secretary. Nigel Adams MP is now the Minister for Sport, Media and Creative Industries. Rebecca Pow MP remains Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, a post she was appointed to in May 2019.

The Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP was appointed Secretary of State for Education. Before becoming an MP in 2010 he had a career in manufacturing, including as managing director for a pottery firm and architectural design firm. Kemi Badenoch MP is now Minister for Children and Families. Nick Gibb, Minister for School Standards remains in post.

As always, if any of these people are your MP do get in touch to tell them about the value of arts education and the need to promote and champion arts in schools. You can use our briefings to talk about the evidence base and value of study arts subjects for Employability and Enterprise, STEAM, Arts, Health and Wellbeing, or our Key Research Findings for a general overview.

The Recruitment Gap: Sutton Trust and Teacher Tapp research shows schools serving disadvantaged communities struggle to recruit suitable teachers

We have long known that having high-quality teaching matters most to children from deprived backgrounds. As The Recruitment Gap report points out: high quality teachers have been shown to have a disproportionately large effect on the progress of disadvantaged pupils (p8). The report clearly demonstrates the impact of the teacher recruitment crisis on the ability of more disadvantaged schools to recruit high-quality, suitable teachers showing that:

  • Teachers in the most disadvantaged secondary schools were twice as likely to report that their department was not well staffed with suitably qualified teachers (30% compared to 14% in the schools with the most affluent intakes).
  • 85% of teachers in disadvantaged schools reported that recruitment was affecting the quality of education their school was providing. 41% agreed strongly this is the case, compared to 18% in independent secondary schools.

The report also outlined the crucial impact of teacher shortages on children’s life chances: 'Inequality in access to suitably qualified, high quality teachers is likely to be an important contributor to the attainment gap that exists between students who come from disadvantaged families and those who do not. Reviews of research consistently show that teacher quality is amongst the most powerful school-based determinants of pupil attainment, with the effects of access to higher quality teachers detectible in adult earnings over a decade after leaving school.'

The Recruitment Gap makes a series of recommendations to improve teacher recruitment and highlights that Pupil Premium funds can be used to incentivise teachers.

Read the full report.

Art & Design and Music are subjects most likely to be taught by specialist teachers

On the subject of suitability qualified teachers, you may have seen our analysis of the number of arts teachers and arts hours taught published early in August 2019. In Table 12 of the same data set (school workforce census 2018) we can see that Art and Music teachers are the most likely of all subjects at secondary level to be taught by a teacher with a degree level or higher qualification (with thanks to Laura Partridge and the team working on the Learning About Culture project at the RSA for making us aware of these figures).

76.1% of Art and Music teachers hold a degree level or higher qualification. 54.8% of Design and Technology teachers and 48.5% of Drama teachers hold a degree or higher level qualification. Only Biology and Other Sciences are close to this level at 75%.

The list of all subjects are below.


Percentage of teachers with a qualification in a relevant subject: degree level or higher



Art and design


Other Sciences




Combined/General science


Physical education


Design and Technology - Textiles


Business / Economics


Other/Combined Technology




Design and Technology - Graphics






Design and Technology - Resistant Materials


All design and technology










Design and Technology - Electronics/Systems and Control






Design and Technology - Food Technology


Religious Education




Other Modern Languages






Media Studies






Closing the gap: focus on hiring and teacher participation, not performance pay and monitoring

Research out in June from the Nuffield Foundation Better Schools for All? highlighted the ongoing issue that ‘the proportion of variance in pupil attainment accounted for by schools has remained largely unchanged over that period, at less than 10 per cent’, something the Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills at the OECD, has previously raised as an issue in England’s education system.

The report looked at the impact of how school workforce is managed on pupil attainment, and assessed the impact of HR and leadership practices across schools compared to the wider economy.

The research found that the schools who most improved pupil attainment were those who focused not on performance related pay or performance monitoring, practices that work in other industry sectors, but on how they hired and involved staff in the school:

Schools benefit from increased use of rigorous hiring practices when selecting new recruits, employee participation mechanisms (such as team briefings), total quality management (TQM) and careful record-keeping

The report also looked at the role of leadership, job satisfaction and commitment on pupil attainment. Job quality was found to have an impact on school performance. Do read the full report for all the details.

Arts qualifications defunded

In March 2019 the Department for Education announced they would review Level 3 qualifications and only fund study for those they considered ‘high quality, necessary, have a clear purpose and lead to good outcomes’. This is part of the preparation for rolling out T Levels.

On 22 July the DfE announced that it would be removing funding for 163 qualifications, including Art and Design, Performing Art, Media and Music qualifications.

NSEAD has issued a statement calling for the government to provide the evidence of how the defunded Art & Design courses are not ‘high quality, necessary, have a clear purpose and lead to good outcomes’.


One Reply to "Policy and Practice round-up September 2019"

  1. The world economic forum advocate the arts for good reason – Germany and South Korea have altered there education policies to facilitate these essential values – the UK remains as ever in the margins
    We cling onto post Victorian ideologies to our detriment

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