Nick Gibb has defended the exclusion of arts subjects from the EBacc as allowing pupils “to specialise in different things”.
The education minister was questioned about the policy at ResearchED’s fifth annual conference, taking place at Chobham Academy in Stratford, east London, today.
Following a speech that promoted the importance of evidence in education, an audience member told Mr Gibb he had “said the word ‘core subjects’ 15 times but arts once”, and asked where he thought the balance lay.
It came two days after a report claimed schools are cutting back on art teachers because of pressure to do well in EBacc subjects.
The minister described the arts as “hugely important”, and added: “I very firmly believe that for a broad education pupils should be taking, and taking seriously, the arts, including music.
“It is not included in the EBacc because we wanted to keep the EBacc sufficiently small to enable pupils to specialise in different things.”
He added: “If you keep the EBacc small enough, as we have, and don’t give in to the temptation to add more and more subjects to that core, you do enable pupils to also take a vocational subject, to take a third language, to take arts subjects to GCSE, and that’s really what lies behind the whole EBacc policy, which I believe is proving very successful.”
He also acknowledged that the target for 90 per cent of pupils to take the EBacc was causing teacher recruitment challenges for schools.
Mr Gibb cited this as a reason for pushing the goal back from the original date of 2020, and for introducing an intermediate target of 75 per cent of pupils taking it by 2022.
He described these as “very demanding targets that require schools to have the right teaching staff”, and said a strong economy lead to “challenges” recruiting graduates into teaching.
He said: “We want to make sure these targets are deliverable and realistic for schools, and that is why we have this stepping stone of 75 per cent and then 90 per cent.”
He added: “That is a realistic target, taking into account the fact that the schools need to recruit the right number of teachers to teach that core suite of subjects.”