New Schools Network Responds to EBacc Announcement

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

++ Free schools show how the EBacc and the arts go hand in hand ++

New Schools Network welcomes the Education Secretary’s announcement today regarding the EBacc and can confirm that there is no conflict between the EBacc and creative subjects like Art, Music and Drama. Our research has established that some of the most successful secondary schools in England are those that combine high expectations in a core of academic subjects with a strong focus on the arts.

Earlier this year, NSN published a report called ‘The Two Cultures’ that looked at the impact of the EBacc’s introduction on the take up of arts subjects. We examined GCSE data between 2012 and 2016 and found that in that period the total number of arts GCSEs taken had risen. This was not just due to the total number of GCSEs having risen in that period. In addition, the average number of arts GCSEs studied by each pupil has increased.

We also found that there is no conflict between attainment in the EBacc subjects and attainment in arts subjects. Good results in the two go hand in hand.

Finally, we found that those schools where students take an above average number of arts GCSEs are more likely to get above average Progress 8 scores and above average Attainment 8 scores and that success in creative subjects went hand in hand with success in academic subjects.

Specifically, in schools where EBacc attainment was above the national average in 2016 (i.e. where more than 24.7 per cent of pupils obtained the EBacc), 73.2 per cent of arts entrants achieved A*-C compared to a national average of 71.7 per cent.

A case in point is the West London Free School, the first free school to sign a funding agreement with the Secretary of State for Education and one of the first free schools to open in 2011.

In 2016, its GCSE results put it the top four per cent of secular, co-educational comprehensives in England, with 38% of all pupils getting A*/A. Over 75% of the pupils were entered for the EBacc, yet 100% of students who took Art and Music got A*–C, with 57% of Music students and 33% of Art students getting A*/A.

Hywel Jones, the Headteacher of the West London Free School, says: “There is no conflict between the EBacc and the arts. In fact, at the West London Free School in Years 10 and 11 well over 75% of pupils are entered for the EBacc and over 50% of the whole cohort in the same year groups take art and/or music. In those schools where pupils are being forced to drop arts subjects in order to take the EBacc, it is due to the decisions made by school leaders rather than there being any inherent conflict.”

Toby Young, Director of New Schools Network, said: “The idea that schools need to drop arts subjects in order to do well in the EBacc is nonsense. It has its roots in the idea that children are either good at arts subjects like Music and Drama or good at academic subjects like Maths and Physics, which simply isn’t true. As our research shows, the best schools in England are those that combine high expectations in a core of academic subjects with a strong focus on the arts and expect all children to do well in both.”

You can read NSN’s arts report – ‘The Two Cultures: Do schools have to choose between the EBacc and the Arts?’ – here: The Two Cultures