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Exam entries for arts subjects 'seeing pronounced decline'

27/09/2017 Kelly

There has been a considerable decline in the number of students taking arts subjects to GCSE level in the last few years, according to a new study.

Analysis from the Education Policy Institute has indicated that GCSE entries for arts subjects have fallen to their lowest level in a decade, a trend that is more emphasised in some parts of the country than others.

By analysing exam entries for art and design; drama and theatre; media, film and TV studies; music; dance and performing arts among 14 to 16-year-olds between 2007 and 2016, it was found that only 53.5 per cent of pupils entered for an arts subject in 2016, down from 55.9 per cent in 2015 and a high of 57.1 per cent in 2014.

The average number of arts exam entries per student in 2016 was 0.7 per cent, lower than at any other time in the period under review. If the same proportion of pupils had taken at least one arts subject in 2016 as in 2014, it is estimated that around 19,000 more youngsters would have studied an arts-based course last year.

Of note was the fact that the north of England was worse affected than the south in this regard, with only 47.8 per cent of pupils in the north east entering for at least one arts subject, compared with 57.3 per cent in the south west. Girls were also shown to be more likely to take an arts subject, with 64.7 per cent taking at least one, compared with 42.5 per cent of boys.

It was suggested that the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) scheme in 2010 and Progress 8 in 2016 may have had a role to play. EBacc recognises pupils who study English, mathematics, a science, geography or history and a modern foreign language at GCSE, while Progress 8 requires pupils to have entered at least five EBacc subjects.

The report said: "The EBacc does not bar access to the arts for those who take it, but it does limit the number of option subject slots that can be filled by non-EBacc subjects."

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