New arts-led free school plans to reject the EBacc

18th October 2016 at 13:42
Supporters of the planned school believe the English Baccalaureate is 'not compatible' with their vision

A Northampton theatre is hoping to open a free school with a focus on culture and creativity in response to concerns that the arts are being squeezed out of the curriculum in secondary schools.

If the plan goes ahead, then the hope is that the school, being set up by the Royal & Derngate theatre, will move away from using the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) – one of the government’s key GCSE accountability measures.

Martin Sutherland, chief executive of the Royal & Derngate theatre, told TES: “My personal feeling is that the EBacc is not compatible with the vision of the school. It does not provide enough space for what we want to achieve."

The news comes amid growing concerns that creative subjects are being scratched from the curriculum after the exam board AQA announced it was scrapping A levels in history of art and, most recently, archaeology. 

The school proposal, which is being developed alongside creative digital agency Balance, is still in the early stages of consultation, and the curriculum is yet to be finalised.

But Mr Sutherland acknowledged that the school, the first set up by a theatre, may have problems along the way. He said: “I would suspect that we are going to have to push for our vision.”

It is hoped the school will take two forms of entry at Year 7 and Year 12 and will provide students with the skills needed for jobs in the growing cultural and creative industries.

'Marginalisation of creative subjects'

“We want to be creating a school that enables children to have jobs in the future," Mr Sutherland said.

He added: “It’s a response to the marginalisation of creative subjects in schools. We have been concerned about it for a long time and we are trying to respond to that."

Last week, new figures released by the Department for Education revealed that the percentage of state school pupils entering at least one arts subject decreased by 1.7 percentage points in 2016.

Deborah Annetts, founder of the Bacc for the Future campaign and chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), said: “We cannot afford to harm the creation of the professionals for the future by squeezing the arts out of the curriculum in secondary schools.

“With a creative economy worth more than £84 billion a year to the UK economy (comparable to the financial services industry), employing two million people and one of the only parts of the economy to be growing, we must make sure we are future-proofing the economy.”

Over the next three months, Royal & Derngate and Balance will be hosting a series of events and conversations that are intended to shape the vision for the new school.

Support for the project will also be sought from New Schools Network, a charity that works with groups that want to set up new schools.

Sarah Pearson, director of New Schools Network, said: "I'm very excited about their initial ideas to drive greater access to the arts for all and look forward to seeing their application to the NSN Development Programme so that we can hopefully support their project in the coming months."

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