Creative subjects sidelined in response to new league table measure

Creative subjects are being squeezed out as schools are urging students to “double up” on academic GCSEs in response to the government’s new league table measure, it has been claimed.

Headteachers “nervous” about their performance on the measure are requesting that students take more GCSEs in English Baccalaureate subjects, according to subject associations.

School leaders and campaigners fear that the trend could have a significant impact on creative subjects, which are not included in the EBac, such as art, music, and design and technology.

The warning comes just weeks after a Warwick Commission report warned that creativity and the arts were being “systematically” removed from UK schools.

From next year, the government’s new Progress 8 league table measure will replace the five A*-C benchmark. Failure to meet the target could leave schools vulnerable to government intervention, takeover or even closure.

Students’ performance will be tracked in eight subjects split into three groups: English and maths, which will be given double weighting; three EBac subjects; and three optional subjects.

But according to the Design and Technology Association (DATA), schools are pushing students to study more EBac subjects in order to bolster their league table performance, leaving pupils with less opportunity to pursue creative interests.

“Schools are nervous of the fact that students may come unstuck on the EBac subjects, so they are doubling up on them,” DATA chief executive Richard Green told TES. “If a student is doing history then [schools] are advising them to take geography as well, and the same with sciences and languages.

"The Department for Education (DfE) says Progress 8 is designed to protect a broad and balanced curriculum, but because of the EBac being used as an accountability measure, schools are gaming it.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “There is no evidence to suggest this is the case. Schools should always put the interests of their pupils first and offer rigorous, high-quality courses that give them the skills and experience they need to succeed in modern Britain.”

To read more on this and other stories get the 6 March edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents.

Related stories: 

Progress 8 may not mean an end to gaming the system – February 23, 2015

League table shake-up may put 'good' schools in danger zone 10 October 2014

London's star to fall under new league table measure – 4 March 2015

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Richard Vaughan

Richard has been writing about politics, policy and technology in education for nearly five years after joining TES in 2008. He joined TES from the building press having been a reporter and then later news editor at the Architects’ Journal. Before then he studied at Cardiff University’s school of journalism. Richard can be found tweeting at @richardvaughan1

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