Arts could suffer under English Baccalaureate plans, headteachers warn

Neatherd High School head teacher Peter Devonish. Picture: Ian Burt

Neatherd High School head teacher Peter Devonish. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Fewer teenagers may be able to take arts GCSEs, and schools may not have enough specialist teachers to deliver academic subjects, under the government's increased emphasis on a traditional curriculum.

That was the message from some Norfolk heads as ministers consult on plans for 90pc of pupils to take GCSEs in subjects in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc): English language, English literature, maths, science, a language, and history or geography.

Currently, 39pc of pupils take the EBacc, and ministers plan to make EBacc results a 'headline measure' of school performance.

Asked if Neatherd High in Dereham would change it policies for the EBacc, head Peter Devonish said: 'In no way, shape or form.'

He said: 'There's an assumption the traditional curriculum is the most rigorous. What does that say about the arts subjects? If that's the case, they should make them more rigorous, rather than making every student do history or geography.'


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Brian Conway, head of the Notre Dame High School in Norwich, said: 'While all of us agree it's really important to have academic subjects, the concerns are that as we move towards the EBacc, do we have the teachers available to teach that, particularly with our recruitment issues in Norfolk.

'It's a one-size fits all for schools, and what will it mean for arts subjects? They are pretty stable at the moment, but if we are increasing modern foreign languages, something has to give.'

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He raised concerns that not enough parents were aware of the changes, which he said could anger some who want to follow an 'arty route'.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: 'We are determined to ensure every child who is able, studies the core academic subjects that will set them up for later life. For too long many pupils, and in particular pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, were deterred from taking these subjects, which prevented them from reaching their full potential.'

He added the government was working to ensure there are 'enough teachers with the right skills and knowledge to allow pupils to study Ebacc subjects at GCSE'.

Do you have an education story? Email martin.george@archant.co.uk

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