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Creative subjects declines

 

 

 Social sciences, modern languages and arts  should be encourged.

 

Creativity disciplines are the price society pays for our culture to be passed on to the next generation.

In recent years, there has been a clear shift away from the arts, modern languages and a handful of social sciences at both GCSEs and A-levels.

Since 2013, the number of A-level entries in arts subjects, which include drama, music and art, in England has fallen by 14,000, almost 15%.

Similarly, there has been an 8% decrease in modern languages and more than 10% in social sciences, such as economics and politics.

Meanwhile, entries in Stem subjects - science, technology, engineering and maths - have increased by 15,500, 6%.

 

Subjects do go in and out of fashion - but to what extent have policy changes had an effect?

'Important' subjects

Jon Andrews, deputy head of research at the Education Policy Institute, says the recent decrease in arts entries at A-level is likely to be linked to similar declines seen at GCSE.

He says recent changes in school performance measures have pushed students away from these subjects, in favour of ones the government wants prioritised.

These include Progress 8 and the linked English Baccalaureate (EBacc), introduced by the Department of Education in 2010.

The EBacc system encourages the grouping of subjects that the government says are "important" for students to study at GCSE, with schools measured by how many take a combination that must include:

  • English language
  • English literature
  • maths
  • combined sciences or three subjects from physics, chemistry, biology and computer science
  • geography or history
  • one modern language

Similarly, Progress 8, established in 2016, assesses a student's progress on eight subjects:

  • English
  • maths
  • three other EBacc subjects
  • three other non-EBacc subjects

Since the introduction of these measures, there has been an increase in all EBacc subjects at GCSEs (except for modern languages) - and this has widened the pool for their uptake at A-level.

And there has been a decrease in entries to subjects not explicitly mentioned by the policy, such as economics, religious studies, physical education and the arts.

Does it matter?

Groups, including the British Council, the Incorporated Society of Musicians and Creative Industries Federation (CIF), have raised concerns over the decrease in arts subjects.

The CIF says the exclusion of arts subjects from the EBacc has signalled to schools "that creativity is not fundamental to future skills and jobs".

The government says that the creative sector is worth £92bn.

Interestingly, there's no indication yet that changes in subject choice in school exams has had a direct impact on university choices.

Statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show the proportion of students taking up non-science subjects at university has remained relatively constant.

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