New proposals for GCSEs and A levels specify the subject content of arts subject qualifications from 2016.

Photo of students in an art class

Jeremy Wilburn (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Proposals for a new syllabus for GCSE and A level subjects including art and design, dance and music have been published by the Department for Education (DfE), together with a consultation document encouraging responses to the proposed changes. The new qualifications are due to be taught from September 2016 and the proposed ‘subject content requirements’ will become regulatory documents, laying down the minimum knowledge, understanding and skills needed for these GCSE and A level qualifications.

The revised content for Art and Design GCSE provides more detail on the skills which students will need to demonstrate, with an emphasis on drawing. The concept of 'endorsed' courses is to be replaced with separate qualification titles such as art and design (fine art) or art and design (photography), while ‘unendorsed’ courses will be given the general title ‘art and design (art, craft and design)’. Schools allowing students to choose the general qualification alongside one of the art and design specialisms could be disadvantaged in the school league tables, under the process known as ‘discounting’, but this situation will be reviewed by the DfE, according to the consultation document.

Revisions to the Dance GCSE “aim to provide a much clearer definition of what students are required to know, understand and be able to do in order to achieve the aims and learning outcomes of the subject”. As there is currently no subject content laid down for AS and A level dance, the new subject content aims to build on the GCSE to support students’ development in performance, choreography and appreciation.

In Music, a more demanding GCSE syllabus will place greater emphasis on knowledge and understanding, with students being expected to write, as well as read, musical notation. The ‘listening’ element will be changed to give a greater focus on ‘active engagement’, requiring students to make critical judgements about music. At A level there will be some flexibility to enable students to concentrate more on either performing or composing if they wish. Music technology will be separated out from music and subject content for this will be developed separately for first teaching in 2017.

The consultation asks for views on whether the proposed GCSE content in each of these subjects is appropriate, whether there is a suitable level of challenge, and whether the content reflects what students need to know in order to access further academic and vocational education. Responses can be completed online and must be submitted by 19 September.

Liz Hill