Government proposals to scrap GCSEs in favours of English Baccalaureate Certificates are thrown out, but planned curriculum reforms will still affect the arts in schools.

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The arts sector has warmly welcomed the U-turn by Education Secretary Michael Gove on his proposals for a seven-subject English Baccalaureate (EBacc) to replace GCSEs. In its place, the Government is now planning for a set of reformed GCSEs and an eight-subject measure which will be used in the school league tables – including arts subjects. The proposed requirement that qualifications should be linear, with all assessments taken at the end of the course, remains.

Ofqual  is being asked to have new GCSEs in “core academic subjects of English, maths, the sciences, history and geography” ready for teaching in 2015, and others in 2016 and Gove has asked Subject content requirements will be published for these core subjects, but there is currently no intention to do so for others and the Government has launched a new consultation on a set of proposals for a new National Curriculum in England. A key principle of the reforms is that “the statutory National Curriculum will form only part of the school curriculum, and individual schools will have the freedom to shape the whole curriculum to their particular pupils’ aspirations and priorities.” Programmes of study in most subjects other than primary English, mathematics and science have been slimmed down, and “unnecessary prescription” about how to teach has been stripped out to leave “only the essential knowledge and skills which every child should master.” In art and design there will be “a stronger emphasis on painting and drawing skills” and in music, “a balance between performance and appreciation.”
In the autumn last year, when the ill-fated EBacc was first proposed, The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) stepped up to lead the arts sector’s response to it by launching the Bacc for the Future campaign. Almost 50,000 people signed its petition to get the importance of arts subjects recognised in the school curriculum. Announcing the revised plans, Gove recognised the impact of this and other voices: “The written responses and the views expressed in meetings have been important in shaping how we intend to move forward with these reforms.” Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the ISM, said: ”…this is good news for children and good news for education... The voices of the creative industries and education sectors have been listened to, and we welcome this. We will now be looking closely at the new proposed National Curriculum for music and work with the Government to ensure that we have a National Curriculum, GCSEs and A-levels fit for the future.”