South East Bridge Misleading analysis underpins report finding arts GCSEs “unaffected by EBacc”

Incomplete analysis and a failure to reveal the wider context have compromised the integrity of an influential report claiming there is “no evidence” that the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) has affected GCSE arts entries, AP can reveal.

The report, ‘The Two Cultures’, claims that the introduction of the EBacc – a schools performance measure that includes no arts subjects – has had no discernible impact on the popularity of the arts at GCSE. But more detailed analysis shows that although entries for arts GCSEs did rise by 6,318 between 2011/12 and 2015/16, this 2% increase pales in comparison to the 601,539 extra entries for non-arts GCSEs that occurred during this time – a 15.7% rise.

Missing analysis

The research was conducted by the New Schools Network (NSN), a charity – 90% funded by the Department for Education (DfE) – which provides advice and resources for those interested in starting a free school.

It headlines the 2% increase in the number of arts GCSEs entries since 2011/12, leading Schools Minister Nick Gibb and Culture Minister Matt Hancock to claim that the report has “put to rest the argument that the EBacc has stifled cultural education in England’s schools”.

But by failing to present the figures in their wider context, it ignores how far the arts have lagged behind during a period when schools have entered students for significantly more subjects outside of the arts.

Key figures not mentioned in the report include:

  • Arts GCSEs as a proportion of all GCSEs fell from 7.6% in 2011/12 to 6.8% in 2015/16
  • Entries for non-arts GCSEs rose by 15.7% between 2011/12 and 2015/16, while entries for arts GCSEs rose by just 2%
  • Arts GCSE entries per school fell from 106 in 2011/12 to 103.1 in 2015/16
  • The average number of non-arts GCSE entries per pupil rose by 20%, from 7.0 in 2011/12 to 8.4 in 2015/16, while the average number of arts GCSEs studied by each pupil has remained at 0.6
  • Entries for nine out of the 15 subjects designated as arts subjects fell between 2011/12 and 2015/16.

Read more…