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A cross-party group of life peers call for accountability measures to be reversed to help buck the decline of exam entries in creative subjects.


DGLimages via iStock

A report into the state of education has called on government to provide “genuine, substantive opportunities to study creative and artistic subjects".

Published yesterday (12 December) by the House of Lords Education for 11-16 Year Olds Select Committee, a 12-strong, cross-party group of life peers, the report calls for educational reforms that place greater emphasis on a range of knowledge, skills and behaviours outside of traditional academic learning.

This includes increased opportunities for studying creative subjects, which the report says is vital to developing creative skills and supporting a diverse talent pipeline for the creative industries, which it highlights as a key sector of the UK economy.


It adds that many other businesses are “crying out for creative skills”.

The committee’s chair, Lord Johnson of Marleybone, said the current focus on almost entirely academic learning is “at the expense of a broader range of knowledge, skills and behaviours”.

“Schools are having to direct their resources towards a narrow set of academic subjects, with take-up of creative, technical and vocational qualifications suffering as a result,” he added.

“Our report lays out the steps the government must take to address this decline, as part of a wider package of measures, to ensure pupils are well prepared to pursue the full range of options in the post-16 phase and flourish in the future.”

The committee received more than 100 written evidence submissions and heard from over 40 witnesses, including the Independent Society of Musicians and Sage Gateshead.

Evidence submitted by the National Education Union said independent schools tend to ascribe value to arts and cultural education, while state school teachers increasingly report that basic resources for the teaching of arts subjects are not available. 

It added “this divergence between public and private leads to increased inequalities in terms of access to a broad educational experience”.

Reverse accountability measures

The report says the committee heard evidence the delivery of creative opportunities in schools is “increasingly difficult” due to funding constraints and the “de-prioritisation of creative subjects due to accountability measures”.

Exam entries to creative subjects have been on a steady decline for over a decade, and reached their lowest share of all GCSE entries ever this summer, while some creative subjects hit an all time low in entry numbers.

The decline has long been attributed to accountability measures including the EBacc and Progress 8. The number of combined entries to all arts subjects at GCSE level has fallen by 42% since 2010, the year the EBacc was introduced.

As a result, the committee’s report says “a principal aim of future adjustments to Key Stage 4 school accountability measures should be to reverse the impact of the current measures on the take-up of creative subjects at GCSE”.

The suggestion mirrors wider recommendations made in the report to abandon the EBacc to enable schools to promote a broader range of subjects at Key Stage 4 levels.

Other recommendations include reducing the amount of content in the 11-16 curriculum, particularly in GCSE subjects, and reducing the volume and stakes of exams by increasing the use of coursework or other forms of non-exam assessment.

The report has been welcomed widely by organisations and bodies working in education.

Mary Bousted, former General Secretary of the National Education Union, wrote on Twitter/X that the report was “ground breaking”. 

“It prepares the ground for reform of the curriculum and assessment. It will be very interesting to see how the government responds”.