NSN Arts Report: Arts not at odds with the EBacc

Wednesday, February 8, 2017
New Schools Network analysis of trends in GCSE entries over the last five years shows that the introduction of the EBacc has had no discernible impact on the popularity of the arts at GCSE.

++ Number of arts GCSEs per pupil up since introduction of the EBacc ++
++ The more arts GCSEs students do, the better their schools perform ++
++ Charity calls for arts organisation to set up schools that marry arts with academics ++


New analysis of trends in GCSE entries over the last five years released today by New Schools Network shows that, contrary to popular belief, the introduction of the EBacc has had no discernible impact on the popularity of the arts at GCSE. Download the full report here.

In fact, the number of arts GCSEs being taken in 2015/16 was higher than in 2011/12 when the EBacc had only just been announced, and the proportion of students taking at least one arts GCSE in this period has increased by 7.4 per cent, while the average number of arts GCSEs studied by each pupil has increased by 5.4 per cent.

In those schools where the percentage of children obtaining the EBacc was above the national average in 2015/16, 73.2 per cent of arts entrants achieved an A*-C grade compared to a national average of 71.7 per cent.

This effect is even more dramatic for Progress 8, with schools posting Progress 8 scores of zero and above seeing 76.1 per cent of arts entrants attain A*-C grades – well above the national average.  Encouragingly, this correlation is just as strong for disadvantaged students.

Most notably, schools with higher levels of per-pupil GCSE arts entries got above average results in the EBacc, Progress 8 and Attainment 8, suggesting that the best state secondary schools in England are those that combine high expectations in a core of academic subjects with a strong focus on the arts.

Schools by average Attainment 8 pupil scores and per-pupil entry rates to arts GCSEs.

Despite the clear link between high performance and including Arts subjects alongside the core academic subjects, 52% of secondary school students are still not taking any Arts GCSEs.

New Schools Network is therefore calling on the Government to do more to signal its enthusiasm for arts education by making it clearer to schools that academic achievement in the EBacc does not come at the cost of the arts. We are also calling on arts organisations to take a more proactive role in promoting the arts in England’s schools, including by opening free schools that marry arts and academic educations.

Toby Young, Director of New Schools Network:

“Children shouldn’t be forced to choose between an academic education and an arts education and this report proves they don’t have to. Those schools that combine high expectations in a core of academic subjects with a strong focus on the arts have consistently been getting above average results. Our hope is that this report will help dispel some of the misunderstandings that have arisen and encourage more schools to boost their arts provision and more arts organisations to set up schools.”

The Rt Hon Nick Gibb, Minister of State for Schools:

“This report puts to rest the argument that the EBacc has stifled cultural education in England’s schools, reaffirming the government’s argument that children can enjoy a successful education in the arts while also excelling in the EBacc. The best schools in the country combine a high-quality cultural education with excellence in core academic subjects and we are committed to ensuring that England’s students continue to have access to both.”

The Rt Hon Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital and Culture Policy:

"The arts can be a real force for social mobility and the Government strongly believes that they should be open to everyone, and not just a privileged few. This is why we are committed to ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy arts and culture, including in our schools, and that they are an important part of a well-rounded education. This report shows that the highest achieving schools and the highest performing students took arts subjects as well as Ebacc subjects."

Author, Ian McEwan said:

“Science, the humanities and the arts are all forms of investigation, driven by curiosity and delight in discovery. The child who flourishes in one should flourish in the others. The best, the liveliest education would nourish all three.”

Read the full report here