If you haven’t been able to tell already, we’re taking Progress 8 very seriously at SAM. Such a big change can hardly be ignored. Elsewhere, however, the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) seems to be hogging the limelight, the worry of some being that it ‘squeezes out’ the arts. The EBacc and Progress 8 are separate measures, and yet they go hand in hand. Indeed, the EBacc is incorporated into Progress 8’s so-called ‘subject buckets’, the 8 subjects students are expected to study: English and maths, three other EBacc subjects (history or geography, the sciences, and a language), and then a further three subjects from an approved list, which can include EBacc subjects.
It’s this third ‘bucket’ that is causing concern among teachers whose subjects fall outside the EBacc: art, music, drama, and so on. The EBacc, they argue, devalues creative subjects, leaves them on the sideline. In theory, the EBacc – like Progress 8 – is promoted as a measure to ensure all students have a ‘broad and balanced’ education, yet critics argue it does the opposite, encouraging a ‘one-size-fits-all’ curriculum. By making performance in at least five EBacc subjects a measure of a school’s performance, schools are far more likely to force students into these subjects, whether or not it is appropriate for each and every student.
The backlash has been unsurprisingly high in the creative community, with the Campaign to Reform the EBacc arguing that the EBacc leaves “little room left for pupils to study art, dance, design, drama, music or other creative industry relevant subjects” which, they also argue, is where the future of the British economy lies. But there is even scepticism over the EBacc in the very sections of society you think you would find loyal support: a recent poll in the Telegraph – one of the government’s most vocal supporters in the media – found that 76% of respondents believed the EBacc was “far too restrictive” to be compulsory for all students.
And it might end up being restrictive for the teaching profession, too. After all, if schools focus solely on supporting EBacc subjects – as it makes sense for them to do – one section of teachers face being even more overworked than they already are, while another will be left in the cold, facing a fall in funding, smaller classes, perhaps even a reduced reputation – teachers of ‘made up’ subjects that most students won’t study beyond year nine. Wherever one stands on the EBacc, this is surely a situation we should work to avoid.