Update on the English Baccalaureate

16 January 2013

It is fantastic to report that there has been a steady stream of vocal support for the place of the arts in schools over the last month. Here is a round-up of some of the speeches, events and articles that have championed cultural learning.

It is critical that we keep this up. If you haven’t yet looked at our easy ways to support the arts in schools, then use this year to get cracking.

Dame Liz Forgan speaks out on Cultural Learning

Dame Liz Forgan leaves her post as Chair of the Arts Council this week and chose to put cultural learning at the heart of her Farewell Speech. In it she expressed alarm at the absence of arts subjects from the Ebacc, and called for the Secretary of State Michael Gove to make a clear and public statement ‘officially setting out his belief in the importance of cultural education’ and giving 'a clear insistence to teachers that culture has a serious place in his expectations of them'.

We want to take this opportunity to thank Liz for all her incredible work in support of the arts – and for championing the cause of children and young people in this way.

House of Lords Debate on Arts in the EBacc

On Monday evening this week the Earl of Clancarty called a debate in the House of Lords about the place of arts and cultural subjects in the Ebacc. You can read the Hansard report of the discussion here.

There was a great deal of very keen and articulate support for cultural learning from many different quarters, which is extremely heartening. There were several statements from the Coalition Peers that might be of particular interest to CLA members:

Baroness Perry of Southwark (the Lords Conservative Party Whip) said that English Baccalaureate Certificates would eventually spread to all subjects (inferring that this would include the arts):

‘I hope that I am right, and that the Minister will be able to reassure me, that the baccalaureate certificate will eventually spread, although I agree that it is a very slow programme, across all subjects.’

Baroness Garden of Frognal closed the debate by saying:

‘This Government are fully committed to a rigorous and demanding arts education and believe that artistic education in all its forms should be made accessible to every child. We are looking systematically at all aspects of the curriculum and qualifications in schools. ‘

Michael Gove gives evidence to the Education Select Committee

Last month the Secretary of State was asked to give evidence to the Education Select Committee on his recent reforms and plans for our education system. You can watch the full session on Parliamentary TV here.

Gove was asked a number of questions directly about his plans for the arts and the EBacc, to which he said that ‘we are putting in place measures for art and design and music that will ensure they flourish like never before’. Here at the CLA we join Dame Liz Forgan in urging him to set out urgently and in detail what these measures will be.

The Secretary of State also particularly focused on Music Qualifications, stating that ‘Music Grade 8 examinations could be seen as equivalent to qualifications taken in English Baccalaureate subjects'.

Liz Truss, Education Minister, makes a speech on International Evidence

In last month’s speech about International league tables Liz Truss made a number of telling and interesting comments about the EBacc:

‘These changes will be cemented with the new Key Stage 4 qualifications from 2015 – English Baccalaureate Certificates in English, maths, the sciences, history or geography and a foreign language. Of course, we expect pupils to do a wider range of subjects, including culturally-enriching activities such as music, art, drama and design.’

This month’s Cultural Learning Champions include:

  • Tony Ryan, Head teacher at Chiswick School, who posted a thought-provoking and truly inspiring article on his school website
  • The Tate, the Turner Prize Winner Elizabeth Price and actor Jude Law, who all spoke passionately and eloquently at the Turner Prize about the need for the arts to be at the heart of the schools curriculum and the EBacc. A New Direction reports more here
  • The Society of London Theatre calling for arts in Ebacc in the Evening Standard
  • Leading cultural figures speaking out in the Guardian
  • Stephen Fry on Twitter
  • The Museums Journal who published this article on how policy change is affecting museum learning.

There has also been considerable opposition to the EBacc from a range of other sources including; the National Union of Teachers, the National Children’s Bureau, Lord Baker, Fiona Millar of the Local Schools Network, and even the exam watchdog Ofqual.

We must keep this debate live and in the public eye. Let us know if you have any thoughts on how we can do this together.