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The General Certificate of
Secondary Education (GCSE) is an academic qualification sat by secondary school
pupils across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to mark their graduation from
Key Stage 4. There are a large variety of GCSE subjects, from Sociology to Spanish;
however the majority of students take some of the core subjects: English,
maths, and science (Carroll and Gill, 2017).

In 2010, the English
Baccalaureate (EBacc) was introduced as a school performance measure (Armitage
and Lau, 2018) to encourage schools to offer an extensive set of academic
subjects throughout secondary school, in the hope of enhancing the future
prospects of students (DfE, 2010). The five sets of subjects required to
achieve the EBacc are: English, maths, science, history or geography, plus a
modern or ancient foreign language. There has since been even more emphasis on
subject choice, with Attainment 8 and Progress 8 performance measures
introduced last year (DfE, 2017), as well as the requirement of 90% of students
from cohorts after 2015 to enter the EBacc (DfE, 2015). Unfortunately, the
exclusion of the arts from the EBacc, and consequently limited options to
fulfil Progress 8 and Attainment 8, has caused the arts to reside at the bottom
of the priorities list. With increased pressure on the more rigorous core
academic subjects, coupled with ‘frozen’ funding per pupil; which translates
into a reduction of approximately 6.5% between 2015–16 and 2019–20 (Belfield,
Crawford and Sibieta, 2017), many schools are now encouraging students to turn
away from the arts.

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This has led to the number of
students taking arts subjects at GCSE reaching its lowest point in a decade in
2015/16 (Turner, 2017), with provisional data for 2017 suggesting this trend
will continue (Johnes, 2017). One grammar school has recently been found charging
pupils £5 per week for their GCSE music lessons (Bennett, 2018), thus sparking
outrage across the UK. The creative industries are the fastest growing sector
of the UK economy, worth around £92 billion, and the UK are celebrated as world
leaders in this field (Norris, 2018). So why is the talent for this industry being
cut off by an ill-advised shelving of creativity in education?

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