Question for Short Debate
My Lords, I very much welcome the opportunity to have this important and timely debate and I thank the Library for its briefing note. I must attach a disclaimer to the terms of this debate, which is: “Will the Government reconsider the omission of arts subjects from the EBacc, if the reforms go ahead?”. A growing number, and I count myself among them, believe that the EBacc is severely flawed and, at the very least, should be postponed pending fuller consultation over all its aspects. However, I will come back to the wider debate later.
This Government continue to underestimate the significance of the arts and creative industries, culturally, socially and economically. It is perhaps no surprise that the ongoing reduction of investment in the arts signals a downgrade now being extended to the arts in school education. School education is so important, not only as a preparation for, but as the template of, the wider world of work including arts, design, manufacturing and so on. Due to this progression from school through to work, the implications of these reforms for the individual, wider society and industry are enormous.
High-profile arts leaders and practitioners have said they believe that in the long term the effect of these reforms could be more significant even than the cuts to public subsidies. Indeed, as the Minister will be aware, there has been a huge barrage of concern and criticism over the omission of arts subjects from the EBacc from both the subsidised and commercial wings of the arts—from film, theatre, the visual arts, including public museums and art dealers, music, dance, craft and design, and tellingly too from others outside the arts.
I am spoilt for choice from the many quotable things people have said in recent weeks, but I will pick out a few. The artist Grayson Perry said:
“If you think about the opening ceremony of the Olympics and all the things that we think of to symbolise modern Britain—from the Beatles to the internet—so many of them are based in creativity … The government is not looking at the country as it actually is: a place that is brilliant at fashion, broadcasting, design, the arts, drama, film”.
Julian Bird, chief executive of the Society of London Theatre and the Theatrical Management Association in an open letter to the Secretary of State said:
“Managers of the UK’s … theatres are concerned that not including the arts in the proposed EBacc will have a negative impact on broader skills development”,
“social mobility … the current proposals threaten the supply of talent needed to maintain one of the few industries where the UK is currently internationally regarded as a world leader”.
Last month, British designers including Jonathan Ive, Stella McCartney and Terence Conran, as well as design companies and universities, wrote to the Secretary of State saying:
“The innovation that fuels UK growth relies on knowledge, the skilled use of materials and the command of ideas. Design and the arts are vital components of an accessible and varied”—
note the word “varied”—
“education system that can provide these skills. The prospect of future generations growing up considering these subjects as unimportant is simply incomprehensible”.
The Secretary of State needs to listen carefully to this criticism, because at present the Government are displaying a blasé attitude that does not reflect reality. They say that pupils are still free to take arts subjects at GCSE level and schools are free to offer them, but the 20% or so left in the school timetable to teach non-EBacc subjects is like being thrown crumbs. Moreover, school governors have told me that once a subject no longer contributes to the league tables, it slips down the priorities for resources.
Further evidence that neglect is already happening comes from research commissioned from Ipsos MORI by the Department for Education, available on its website. The arts are already hardest hit, with 23% of teachers whose schools have withdrawn a subject—about one-quarter of the total polled—saying they can no longer offer drama or performing arts, 17% saying that art has been withdrawn and 14% that design or design technology has been withdrawn, trends confirmed by figures from the Joint Council for Qualifications in a Commons Written Answer to Dan Jarvis on 15 October. If this is already the result of the introduction of the EBacc as a performance measure, then it is not difficult to imagine the deepening of this effect once the formal qualification is in place. Most damning of all, perhaps, is the DfE research stating:
“Sixty-three per cent of teachers surveyed whose schools do not offer the EBacc combination to all pupils say this is because they do not offer it to lower-attaining pupils”,
a crystal-clear expression of the lower-class status that excluded subjects now have. The Government may want to move away from league tables but the effect will remain the same. There will be other serious effects if these reforms go through as they are. Many have pointed out that it will be children from poorer homes who will be disproportionately deprived of exposure to the arts.
The Secretary of State seems to believe that the EBacc is what universities and business leaders want, yet the representative body Universities UK gave this written evidence to the Education Committee’s inquiry into the EBacc in 2010:
“Given that the EBacc emphasises traditionally academic subjects, it has been argued that this could serve to further widen the gap between academic and vocational subjects. There is also concern that the EBacc could encourage a shift away from arts-related subjects … In general … there appears to be a limited appetite to include the award as part of a university’s entry requirements or selection criteria”.
I stress the phrase “a limited appetite”. I therefore wonder how much the Russell Group’s guidance that was set out in 2011, rather than indicating what universities would like, has been a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, because some universities will quite logically consider less those subjects that are already starting to be marginalised.
The issue of overspecialisation at too early an age is an important one. In its report First Steps: A New Approach to our Schools, the CBI, which is critical of the EBacc in many ways, talks about the need for what it terms a “rounded and grounded” pupil, echoing what those in the arts also say. Rosy Greenlees, executive director of the Crafts Council, tells me that while not wholly against a “techbacc”—and I would welcome some more detail from the Minister on the Government’s plans in this direction—she is worried about the possible reinforcing of what she calls the,
“traditional divide between the practical and the academic which is outmoded”.
On Radio 4’s “Start the Week” last November, which was devoted to art and design, Sarah Teasley, tutor in the history of design at the Royal College of Art, spoke about the need to push regional innovation through connections between research institutes and regions, between art and design colleges and local SMEs. There is a real need to bring arts, sciences and technology into a much more intimate relationship, and this must start in schools. Subjects need to be able to talk to each other within the curriculum much more than they do at present, but to do so they need also to retain equality and integrity. It is not enough to simply say, as the Government have done, that EBacc subjects can be taught “creatively”.
In terms of the larger structure of the EBacc, art and sport—which also feel that they are going to be neglected—need at this stage to see each other as allies in the interests of wider reform, not competitors for a position in what is being increasingly understood as a limiting and unacceptable hierarchy of subjects. What, too, about computer science, itself so crucial to the development of today’s creative industries, business, economics, sociology, and religious studies? The list goes on. There is concern, too, about the effective downgrading of the modular system—a system that many argue favours innovation and creativity—an action, as the National Children’s Bureau and other charities point out, that will also hugely discriminate against disadvantaged children and those with learning and other disabilities. For many of the reasons that I have discussed, Tony Kelly of the Education School at Southampton University says that the EBacc will be a distraction from the fundamental mission of schools to create well-being for students—not solely economic well-being but the development of the ability to turn opportunity into betterment.
The support for withdrawing the EBacc is now backed by teachers, parents, unions, national museums, major charities, the National Governors Association, academics and universities, Peers, MPs and former Education Secretaries, including the noble Lord, Lord Baker of Dorking. Seeing as the consultation for key stage 4 has been held very much in public, I am tempted to say that the Government hardly need to look at the results to see how institutions and many people now feel. The Government must give very careful consideration to the consultation and report back quickly. Although we have had the music plan, we are still awaiting the response of the Government to last year’s Henley report on cultural learning, which backed the inclusion of arts within the EBacc.
One of the frustrating things that so many working in the arts now feel is that we are living through a time when the arts and creative industries have become central to our society, central to our culture and, as I said at the beginning of this debate, hugely significant economically. They could of course be more so, but the arts are in real danger of taking a backward turn at a time when the Government should be seizing the day and capitalising on what is now in place but which might well be lost if the Government do not change tack.
My Lords, I congratulate and thank the noble Earl for having inaugurated this debate with such a stimulating speech. I yield to no one in my love of the cultural subjects that he has described. I fear that we have here a degree of confusion between the EBacc and the English baccalaureate certificate. Partly due to confusion in the way in which the Government have put this issue out to consultation, it is very difficult to see the difference between the two. As I understand it, though, the English baccalaureate certificate will eventually spread across all subjects, while the EBacc will be a reward for students who perform at a particularly high level in the range of five subjects that the noble Earl has already described. The Government’s consultation says,
“to ensure the benefits of this more rigorous approach to the English Baccalaureate subjects are felt across the whole curriculum, we will ask Ofqual to consider how these new higher standards can be used … for judging and accrediting”,
subjects at age 16 beyond the EBacc to replace current GCSEs. I hope that I am right, and that the Minister will be able to reassure me, that the baccalaureate certificate will eventually spread, although I agree that it is a very slow programme, across all subjects.
I return to the purpose of the change in the examinations away from GCSEs towards the baccalaureate certificate, and I welcome the urge towards a new and more rigorous kind of examination. Examinations cast a very long shadow over the whole of secondary school education, and the way in which pupils are going to be examined at age 16 determines very much the pattern of education that they will receive in the years before that. Finding a new set of examinations that genuinely go for rigour and try to assess, as Anthony Seldon has put it, the ability of the pupils rather than that of the teachers is wholly to be welcomed. It is important that students have the opportunity to develop real scholarship and independent thought but too much about the GCSEs that we have had has not encouraged that. They have encouraged a simple regurgitating of factual material that pupils have been given. The development of scholarship, God-given curiosity and a real sense of independent thought—which these new examinations are designed to achieve—will be very important.
I commend the Government for having commissioned Darren Henley to write a report on what they have described as “cultural subjects”, because we know how very important those are. I make a final plea—that we should talk not only about the arts and cultural subjects but also about those young people with a passion for the technical and vocational curriculum as well.
I, too, am very grateful to the noble Earl for giving us this short amount of time to discuss this important issue. Two assumptions underpin this debate for me. First, whatever our difference of opinion may be this evening, there is a shared assumption that the knowledge, skills and experience that make up the arts are an important part of our society and how we live our lives. They are vital for economic prosperity, integral to our sense of identity and a part of what makes us a civilised society. Because of that, how we educate our children in the arts is absolutely crucial.
My second assumption is that the English baccalaureate—despite the fact that the certificates might be extended—will become the most important qualification up to the age of 16. It will replace five A* to C grades as the mark of achievement and accountability measure; it will determine whether a school is seen as successful; and, in the words of the Secretary of State, it will be the new gold standard. Because it has been described by the Government as the new gold standard, inevitably the subjects that are its component parts will be seen as the mark of what society values. I can see it now: those young people who are awarded the English baccalaureate will be seen as having been successful; they will be seen as having received a good education. My problem, therefore, is: how can a qualification with this significance have no place for the arts? How can an assessment that marks the end of the national curriculum not recognise achievement in music, dance, drama, art, design and craft? That is the problem that has been created by the English baccalaureate and it needs to be addressed.
I accept that, in theory, there is room in the curriculum for subjects to be taught other than those in the English baccalaureate, and that examinations are now available. Those, however, will be seen as marginal—they will not be the gold standard. However the Government might try to argue that they are not putting the arts subjects at a disadvantage, the lessons of almost a quarter of a century of a national curriculum and assessment system tell otherwise. We have learnt over that time that what is measured is what is valued, and what schools are held accountable for is where they will put their efforts. That is not me predicting the future; that is a description of what is happening at the moment. Schools are already rewriting timetables and reallocating resources; they are changing their staffing plans and amending the subject choice advice that they give to young people. This will happen more as they chase success in the English baccalaureate. The cost that will be paid is that arts education will take second place. Sadly, decades of progress will be reversed. That ought not to be allowed to happen, but that will be a consequence of the avenue down which the Government are leading us.
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for arriving a couple of minutes late. I have three minutes to speak, so I would like to make three points.
First, as a nation, our success in the arts and creative industries is second to none. It brings billions to our economy. In Questions earlier today, for example, I mentioned that the UK’s music industry alone brings nearly £4 billion to the economy. Our creative industries are the envy of the world and, as a country, we should be doing all that we can to protect that jewel in our crown. Sadly, since the EBacc started in 2010 we have seen schools culling arts subjects—dance, drama, music and design and technology courses—from their curricula. We have seen students deciding not to take up these subjects as schools limit the number of arts subjects on offer. Never mind the numerous arts organisations expressing their fears—employers are also worried. The Confederation of British Industry has recommended that creative and technical subjects should be included in the new qualification.
Secondly, every child should have the same access to the arts and culture. Schools with a high proportion of free school meals are more likely to be withdrawing from arts subjects. We know that children from families with lower socioeconomic status have less access to the arts in any case. Indeed, we are now seeing this state of affairs accelerating in our schools.
Finally, we need an examination system in which we all have confidence, whether it be the student, the teacher, the university or the employer. We need a system which is fair and not divisive—one that maintains rigorous standards and challenges the most able.
I am in favour of the EBacc. There should be a core of subjects that young people are expected to take. However, I strongly believe that a sixth pillar of the arts should be part of the EBacc qualification; in fact, the Government’s own cultural education review, chaired by Darren Henley, recommended such a course of action.
As the head of a school until December of last year—a school with an Artsmark Gold—I know the importance of visual and performing arts: how arts can develop confidence in pupils, help with other skills such as literacy and develop full, rounded pupils. Let us recognise the importance of arts in our schools for economic well-being, social mobility and the continued development of the arts.
“Music is both an art and a science; to comprehend it fully requires long, hard study; to feel the emotions it can produce, you need a cultivated mind and a practised sense of hearing; and to judge the merit of musical works, you must also possess a well-stocked memory so as to be able to make comparisons—indeed you must know all sorts of things which inevitably you can get to know only by learning them”.
That is a quote from Hector Berlioz, my personal musical idol. It seems pertinent to this debate, on which I congratulate my noble friend Lord Clancarty.
I only really began to appreciate classical music at university. I do not, however, believe that would have happened if I had not been lucky enough to go to a school where I was made to sing, to learn the rudiments of music theory and history, and to attend concerts—as well as briefly taking piano lessons. Without that foundation, I might never have discovered Berlioz, nor would music—and the arts in general—have played such a key part in my quality and enjoyment of life.
That is just what I have gained as an amateur arts-lover. What about all those professionals working in the field of music, in a vast variety of roles and in every different form of music, who have been so successful on the world stage and who, as we have heard, help the UK to earn almost £4 billion a year in gross value added—a figure that rises to over £36 billion if all the creative industries are included? Surely they and their successors need the same sort of grounding at school if this invaluable source of UK competitive advantage is not to dry up.
The Olympics and Paralympics opening and closing ceremonies last year made plain how great a role music plays in our national perception of ourselves and of what we have to offer the world. Nothing could demonstrate more clearly that the arts and creative subjects are every bit as important as the five pillars of the EBacc. In my view, the EBacc has much to be said for it—and I particularly welcome the inclusion of Latin, Greek and ancient history among the languages and humanities options. However, the omission of a sixth pillar for arts and cultural studies could seriously compromise its benefits. It would be disastrous if access to understanding and knowledge of the arts and creative subjects became increasingly confined to those young people lucky enough to go to schools which decide voluntarily to retain them—especially if these are predominantly independent schools. The number of schools already withdrawing arts subjects from the curriculum, and the falling numbers of students taking music at GCSE—mentioned by my noble friend—are deeply worrying.
According to the IBM Institute of Business Value, chief executives identify creativity as the most important leadership competency for the successful enterprise of the future. Many of the nations with which we need to compete are putting substantial resources into educating their young people in the creative disciplines. I hope the Minister will be able to tell us how she plans to ensure that creative subjects, including music, do not become some sort of second-tier option with limited availability following the introduction of the EBacc, with resulting damage to the UK's creative economy.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Earl for this short debate and I share with him many concerns about the importance of the arts in education, particularly the importance of guaranteeing effective engagement with the arts for the totality of a child’s school career, including through public examinations. The exclusion of an art strand from the core EBacc suggests an overnarrow focus and a certain kind of Philistinism that values only those subjects seen, perhaps mistakenly, as contributing overtly to our economic life.
Alongside that general concern about downplaying the arts, it will come as no surprise that I have a particular worry about the other exclusion; namely, religious education. I hope that I do not need to rehearse the reasons why inclusion in the EBacc is essential for the continual well-being of the subject, nor, more fundamentally, why RE must be retained as a core element of the education of every pupil in our schools.
Understanding the impact of, in this country, Christianity and, in the rest of the world, all major faiths on life and culture, on history and politics, and on the moral and legal codes is fundamental to living as an engaged, articulate citizen, such as a healthy society requires. But religion is also inextricably connected to the arts. For western culture, that means predominantly Christianity. How can one understand and appreciate the music of JS Bach without a knowledge of the Christian faith and the context out of which his music sprang? Think of the Passions, the cantatas, the Mass. Similarly with the great masters. A huge amount of western art just is shaped by the Christian story, the Biblical record, and the life and history of the Christian church. Much great drama is dealing with the existential themes of redemption and salvation, the cost of human living, the nature and existence of God, and the challenges of the moral life.
Students who are ignorant about Christianity are locked out of a crucial part of understanding and experiencing art and culture. The relationship between the other world faiths and the arts is different but the understanding of faith as a driver for and outcome of artistic expression of all kinds is fundamental to arts education and cultural development across the board. As the case is made for the inclusion of the arts in the English baccalaureate, I ask that the case for religious education is heard as well.
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, is a tireless advocate for the arts and culture in this House. We owe him a big debt of gratitude, not least for the opportunity to discuss the topic of this debate. I remind the House of my interests, which include membership of the board of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Over my 40-year involvement with the performing arts in this country, I have watched the relationship between them and the education system develop from one of what I think one could describe as a mutually respectful distance to the rich, full-blown network of innovative partnerships that we have all over the country today. I do not think that there is a theatre company, orchestra or dance troupe in the land that does not regard education as a central part of its remit and there are few schools which do not benefit from that work.
In addition, there are many organisations, such as two with which I am proud to be associated—the Roundhouse and Artis Education—which have created, in very different ways, brilliant programmes to enhance and enrich the school curriculum. So much has been achieved. Therefore, how is it that we now have to defend those achievements against the reductive effect of a narrowly focused range of EBacc subjects?
The Secretary of State for Education has repeatedly asserted that culture and the arts are important for all young people and I am sure that he is sincere. He is, after all, as Mark Antony remarked of Brutus, “an honourable man”. Indeed, he recently made it possible for his department to fund the introduction into all maintained secondary schools of the RSC’s Shakespeare toolkit, which is a brilliant performance-based—noble Lords should note well, performance-based—programme for teachers. But at the same time, as we have heard, a recent Ipsos MORI report for the Department for Education shows that in 2012 27% of schools were already making reductions in the range of subjects offered at GCSE. Of that figure, 23% were in the performing arts. Does the Minister think that there might be a bit of a paradox here?
The Minister, for whom we all have a high regard, will no doubt do her best to persuade the House that schools are not being actively prevented from offering arts subjects. Of course, technically, she will be right. But when, in five years’ time, arts subjects in our schools have gone into the sort of decline that we saw with modern languages once they were no longer a compulsory element of the curriculum, that will be no defence. I have a sinking feeling that the battle to include arts subjects in the EBacc is lost for no reason other than a profound unwillingness on the part of the Government to admit an error. But what can the Minister now tell us about other means by which they might propose to ensure that young people in all our schools, not just those in the independent sector—which, by the way, seem to understand the argument about the importance of the arts rather better than the Government—are able to access the richness of their cultural inheritance? For certain it is that, without strong government intervention, the rot which has already set in will spread at a gallop.
My Lords, I, too, welcome the debate initiated by the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and I congratulate him on his fine opening speech. At a recent meeting of the All-Party Group for Music Education, the chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians reported that 80 organisations, including the BRIT School, Shakespeare’s Globe, the National Portrait Gallery and many others, supported what is now called the “Bacc for the Future” campaign.
I have never seen the creative sector so united against what appears to be a two-tier approach by the Government to educational qualifications. When the result of the consultation comes through, it will undoubtedly show a massive negative sentiment. Arts and cultural subjects have not been in a good place for some years. The Cultural Learning Alliance reports a steady decline in the number of young people studying arts and cultural subjects.
Now, as a result of the EBacc, the performance measure that is not to be confused with the future EBC, schools are cutting art, dance, drama, music and design and technology even further, as many noble Lords, including the noble Earl and the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, have demonstrated and as the Ipsos survey made so clear.
This is all completely at odds with the Henley review of cultural education, let alone his earlier review of music education, and the Government’s response, which, on the face of it, was so positive. A national plan is due to be published soon. How does the Minister reconcile this in the face of the marginalisation of arts subjects? As Jude Law, the actor, said:
“The arts must not be allowed to become a middle-class pursuit”.
As the noble Earl and my noble friend Lord Storey mentioned, there is already a disproportionate withdrawal of these subjects in schools with a high proportion of free school meals.
The fact is that we need to reverse this trend. My noble friend Lord Storey mentioned that the CBI and others have expressed concerns. There will be fewer songwriters, composers, musicians, creators, creative professionals and even appreciative audiences, which will damage the creative industries as a whole just when we are relying on them to make an even greater contribution to our future prosperity. They are uniquely important in this country. Have we not conclusively demonstrated that with our Olympic and Paralympic opening and closing ceremonies?
I hope that the Government appreciate that there is huge demand in this House and outside for the arts to be included as a sixth pillar in the EBC; for drama, dance, film and media to be included in the national curriculum. I further hope that the Government, particularly the Secretary of State, listen to the points made by the “Bacc for the Future” campaign and by this House.
My Lords, for 30 years I have led my professional life in the film industry. I declare my interests as a governor of the British Film Institute, a council member at the Institute of Contemporary Arts and co-founder of FILMCLUB. The film industry is an industry where art, science and commerce are routinely combined to make a vital cultural and economic contribution to the nation. The advent of the digital age has accelerated this convergence of the arts, science and business in almost every area of life. It will not have escaped notice that this sector, unlike many others, has seen exponential growth.
In particular, the gaming and special effects industry alone was valued at nearly £3 billion in 2012. We are a world leader in digital effects and the place of first choice for many Hollywood studios. However, Alex Hope, the CEO of the largest special effects company in Europe and co-author of the 2011 NESTA review of the sector, reports that we are already failing a generation. Of the 760 designers employed by this UK company, 50% have had to be recruited from overseas because British applicants do not have the requisite skills in both maths and art, the combination of which is essential to the work of this burgeoning industry and the combination of which is routinely discouraged in our school system.
That the EBacc would exacerbate this problem by creating “Cinderella” subjects and preventing a joined-up education even earlier in the development of our workforce seems bewildering. To exclude computer science, art, design and business skills from the EBacc would indicate that the Government are wedded to a Victorian vision of education which will leave us stranded in these increasingly important global markets. As someone who has devoted their life to promoting the transformative power of culture, it feels somewhat invidious to make this economic argument, but it is testimony to how wrongheaded it is to arbitrarily create a tier of second-class subjects. The digital age has blown the wall between the two cultures wide open and it is at our peril that we systemise ignorance of any discipline when all disciplines are vital for our collective future.
I hope the House will find it appropriate if I take this opportunity to celebrate the multiple successes of the UK film and television industry at the Golden Globe awards yesterday evening, and hope that we will see many more in the future.
My Lords, I should remind the House of my interests, which include being chairman or trustee of a range of arts organisations, patron of the BRIT School and a visiting professor at the University of the Arts London.
The narrow focus which the Government have placed on the English baccalaureate is, to my mind, severely detrimental. It is already squeezing out the arts from much of the school curriculum and I fear that the damage will go a lot further over the years to come. In the short time available, I want to make three brief but fundamental points.
The first is that engagement in the arts for school pupils is fundamentally important to the well-being and full education of those pupils. To ensure that a pupil can emerge from school to live the richest possible life of the intellect and the spirit for the rest of their lives, engagement in the arts is absolutely crucial to enable them to develop the fullest, roundest possible degree of character and ability.
My second point is that engagement in the arts is of fundamental importance for the well-being of the school. There is case after case in schools around the country where engagement by the pupils in a large amount of excellent artistic activity helps the performance of the rest of the school. Engagement in the arts enables pupils and encourages them to perform well academically in other subjects. The same goes for the life of the school. If the emphasis on music, dance, drama and art is lost, then the rest of the school will suffer.
The third point is that engagement in the arts for pupils is fundamentally important for the future of the country’s economy. The importance of the creative industries, which is now something like 7% of our GDP, has been mentioned by virtually every speaker in this debate. Unless we nurture the spirit of creativity through school and then into the excellent tertiary education which is available for the creative sector in the UK, we are not going to keep our world lead in that sector. I think that the Government have both the tone and the detail of the English baccalaureate wrong. I plead with them to think again.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, on obtaining this debate. With the support of the House I will also congratulate Darren Henley, whose excellent reports on cultural education were recognised in the New Year’s Honours List with a very well deserved OBE.
I chair the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. We train outstanding musicians and dancers and are fifth out of all higher education institutions in the country for employment of our graduates, 97% of whom are in work or further study six months after graduating. We can achieve that quality of output only because of the quality of our input. We have all heard of child prodigies in music, but you do not very often hear of adult prodigies—that is, performers who started late in life. Music and dance in schools are what enable us to do what we do.
The EBacc as it is presently conformed is very bad news for Trinity Laban: no music, no dance, no arts; instead, the Daily Telegraph suite of subjects. Ministers claim—and I am sure the noble Baroness, Lady Garden of Frognal, will do the same—that they still value the arts and I expect some of them do, but we live in a harsh world. If they do not figure in the EBacc, then schools, which will be judged by their EBacc success, will downgrade them and, indeed, they are already doing so. This is despite a YouGov poll which shows that 88% of the public expressing an opinion think that music and other creative subjects are important or very important to a child’s education. With some children whose level of performance needs to be increased, it is very often through the arts, music or dance that they make the breakthrough to seeing the value of education and then apply that to other, less congenial, subjects.
If the Government do not change tack, the composition of those who come to Trinity Laban will change as well as the quality. Those whose parents can afford to will provide school-age education in music and dance privately. Those who cannot will see their children’s talents wasted. The answer is a sixth pillar to the EBacc for such studies. If Michael Gove wants to retoxify the Tory party as the philistine party, he will continue to resist it.
My Lords, I also thank the noble Earl for giving us the opportunity to debate this subject. I hope it is a harbinger of a much wider set of debates; this is not enough. That being said, in three minutes I cannot give my outline of what constitutes a rounded education. Instead, I will start at the end of my argument and give the answer, which is—and this will shock noble Lords—Ofsted, in which I declare an interest, having had some part in setting it up. If that is the answer, what is the question?
I agree with virtually all the sentiments expressed in this debate, so much so that I often wish there was a good philistine in the House to put an alternative point of view, not to disturb the company. However, we are arguing about what motivates schools. I do not know any teacher who would not agree that arts and music are important. I know a few philistine head teachers who practise bad faith by responding only to public stimuli in their account of what a rounded education is. They do that because they respond to what the public want, which is league tables, and they only give credit to what league tables will produce. Behind that, the notion of a national curriculum was a very good one in principle and attached to it were national exams. Performance in the exams became the other benchmark of what a rounded education is. The trouble with this discussion is that we are saying, “We will accept all that in principle reluctantly”, and we will push our pet subject into the same group with the same type of treatment that we have for the national curriculum.
I agree with noble Lords. I live by the arts, enjoy them, learn a great deal from them and get great pleasure from listening to music and going to the theatre. That is not at issue. What is at issue is what are listed as EBacc subjects. As has been rightly said, this pushes head teachers into bad faith and giving up a true understanding of what education is. That is the wrong way to go. There is space in the curriculum, and Ministers will use the language of “opportunity”. Unless they are absolute charlatans, that has to be true, and we have to help to make it true.
My proposal is that we should put a specific responsibility and requirement on Ofsted to report annually on what is happening nationally, on how many jobs have been lost in these areas, because it is serious, and, specifically for head teachers, on what an individual school does to create a rounded education. This might well be much more imaginative than trying to stick another subject into the national curriculum on which to be examined nationally. It puts a lot on Ofsted but—blow me—that is what it is paid for. It ought to make judgments and, to give it its due, it has, as a start, produced a good national report on religious education. Ofsted will have to do the same for art, music, design, computer science, and so on down the list.
My worry is that the national curriculum and what counts as a good subject will expand to the mess that we have now. Every lobby and his partner will turn up and tell us what we must include, and the national curriculum will burst at the seams. I would rather have space in schools with a specific injunction and a specific judgment on whether they are providing a rounded education.
My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to make one point in the gap and to apologise that an amendment in the Moses Room made me miss the first sentence of the noble Earl’s excellent speech.
I take arts subjects to include design, which of course straddles art, technology and often engineering. That conjunction explains why design is so important. It is a subject that teaches how to turn an idea into a functional object which serves a purpose. In short, it is a prime example of creativity itself—a kind of creativity which typically includes collaboration between different disciplines, interaction with the end-user and the individual satisfaction of making something that can work. All of them are skills we need.
I need not rehearse the economic and export importance of our world-famous designs, nor, I hope, the contribution they make to the quality of life in countless ways, from hospital care to smartphones. But I must stress again the educational value for all of learning design. We should celebrate our traditional strength here and include design in the EBacc before it loses its place in our culture.
My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak briefly in the gap. I declare two interests as vice-president of the English Speaking Union and as High Steward of Cambridge University.
I urge the Government to avoid the mistake made in 2004 when language was removed as a compulsory subject. We know the consequence of that, although I remember sitting in debates in this House when we were assured by the Front Bench that no such consequences would occur. The consequences were that the number of young people reading, for example, French fell immediately in the first year by 14%. The number reading German fell by nearly the same percentage. That damage has stayed on and the figures remain dismal when compared with what they originally were.
What is the lesson of that experience? The lesson is that the moment you remove a subject as a core subject, consequences begin to flow. It does not matter what the rhetoric is or even what the aspiration is. The truth is that people have to calculate against a set of criteria, which then makes the cutting of these subjects inevitable.
When it happened with languages, many people said to me that the world-wide use of English—I have devoted a lot of years to it as a world-wide language—was used as an excuse to cover for our poverty in other languages. We must not make this mistake in the arts because we are riding a tiger and doing very well, and this is not the moment to take away the support.
My Lords, I, too, commend the noble Earl for bringing this debate to your Lordships’ House and for providing the opportunity to give voice to the groundswell of concerns about Michael Gove’s proposal for the English baccalaureate.
Unfortunately, as the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, and others around the House have commented, the Secretary of State’s greatest success has been to forge a wide coalition of opposition, embracing not only the arts but sport, business, entrepreneurs, faith organisations, his own exam watchdog and many schools.
By adopting the language of the international baccalaureate, the Secretary of State would have us believe that the EBacc embodies the same principles and might enjoy similar acclaim. Yet the narrowness and rigidity of the EBacc could not be further from the international baccalaureate, in which, for example, students aged up to 16 years—the age we are talking about—are required to study not five but eight subjects, including arts, physical education, the humanities and technology. As we have heard this evening, can so many people in so many different sectors be wrong in their concerns about the EBacc? Four years before the first EBacc exams are taken, as the noble Lord, Lord Storey, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh, pointed out, we are already seeing schools not replacing arts teachers and reducing the number of hours and subject options in art, design, technology, music and drama.
The research that my noble friend referred to shows that last year 45% of schools cut courses, and this year 27% did so, with art, design, technology and the performing arts being the worst hit. Therefore, whether or not the Government finally decide, as the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, suggested, that there will be an individual EBacc certificate in the arts by 2017, it will be too late by then because it is the EBacc itself—this group of five subjects that my noble friend Lady Morris referred to, quoting Michael Gove as regards the “gold standard”—that is now driving schools and forcing the arts out of the curriculum, as my noble friend Lord Smith pointed out. Not only will that be to the detriment of many pupils but it will starve our economy of the creative and enterprising talent of the future. With Britain now a world leader in the creative industries, is it right to risk squandering that advantage from the point of view of both our young people and our economy?
So I ask the Minister, first: what are the Government doing to monitor the extent to which these subjects are being cut from the school curriculum, and when will they intervene to prevent further cuts and the loss of teaching capacity in the creative subjects? We could make an equally important case in respect of physical education and sport, and indeed, many are doing so. Similarly, business leaders have expressed concern about the impact of the EBacc on preparing students and equipping our economy with the skills of the future.
We on this side believe, like the CBI, that all students should continue to study English and maths up to the age of 18. Will the Government require all students to do so? Will the Government now listen to the groundswell of protest about the marginalisation of these key subjects and suspend the implementation of the EBacc while we consider more fully more imaginative changes to equip our young people and our economy for the 21st century, not for the 1950s?
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for stimulating this important debate on a subject about which he is clearly passionate, as are other noble Lords who have taken part. I entirely agree with him about the importance of the creative arts. This Government are fully committed to a rigorous and demanding arts education and believe that artistic education in all its forms should be made accessible to every child. We are looking systematically at all aspects of the curriculum and qualifications in schools. We have taken steps to address poor value vocational qualifications, with changes to performance tables from 2014. The new national curriculum will be introduced from September 2014, and from 2015 teaching of new English baccalaureate certificates will start. I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Perry for clarifying the difference between the EBacc, which is the performance measure, and the EBacc certificates, which are the composite parts.
All pupils should have access to high quality teaching in arts and creative subjects. That has become apparent from a number of noble Lords this evening. Arts subjects, music and design and technology remain in the national curriculum from primary school to the end of key stage 3. Students are entitled to take an arts subject in key stage 4. We will publish shortly the draft national curriculum. In reforming it, we aim to give teachers greater flexibility over how to teach, so that more children can be inspired by great teaching.
I reassure noble Lords that we are not removing or downgrading any cultural subject in the national curriculum. We believe that all pupils should have the opportunity to study a strong academic core to the age of 16. Other high performing jurisdictions already secure this for their young people; it should be no less so for England. The noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, and others referred to the importance of that key ability in maths and English.
The EBacc is designed to tackle the inequality of opportunity that saw only 10% of pupils in schools with a high proportion of children on free school meals tackle EBacc subjects in 2010. The figure this year is 41%. The EBacc is helping to drive the take-up of modern foreign languages, about which many noble Lords are concerned. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and my noble friends Lord Clement-Jones and Lord Watson, referred to the dramatic decline in modern languages when they ceased to be compulsory at key stage 4. We are certainly watching the effects of not having subjects as compulsory; however, there are no exact parallels between languages and the arts subjects in that way. The EBacc is not compulsory as an overarching qualification; it is still possible for schools to respond to their pupils’ needs through other qualifications.
The success of the EBacc does not mean the exclusion of other subjects, and schools which do well in the English baccalaureate also make time for artistic and cultural education and for sporting activities. There is time in the school day and week for them to do so. Strong schools, with good leaders, recognise that excellence in the arts helps drive academic success, and they use arts and cultural education to inspire and delight their students. That is why improving the quality of leadership is at the heart of the Government’s school reform programme. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, Ofsted is already tasked with checking that schools are offering a rounded education. We will certainly be monitoring closely to ensure that that continues to be the case in the coming months and years.
Following on from Darren Henley’s excellent work to review musical and cultural education, we have published a national plan for music education. I echo the congratulations of the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, on the well deserved OBE for Darren Henley in the honours list. We are also planning to publish a cultural education plan in the spring.
Noble Lords are suggesting that the Government are doing nothing to encourage arts and education. However, we are allocating £171 million over three years for the network of music education hubs, and I hope that that will address the enthusiasm of the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, for music. We know that there is a decline in GCSEs in music, but we are looking at ways to encourage and revive the interest in music through these hubs.
We have the internationally renowned music and dance scheme, which supports exceptionally talented young musicians and dancers. We are funding the creation of a National Youth Dance Company, jointly with Arts Council England. Along with Arts Council England, we are supporting the expansion of the Sorrell Foundation’s art and design Saturday clubs. In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, these clubs support the importance of design; they have had tremendous success so far.
With substantial support from the British Film Institute, we are developing a new national film academy. The noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, mentioned the importance of film. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, also referred to encouraging the take-up of arts in different ways. We also have the Shakespeare schools festival to give more children the chance to stage a Shakespeare play in a theatre. Schools receive an RSC tool kit to help teachers bring Shakespeare alive. I have been to one or two of these Shakespeare in schools events; it is inspirational to see the youngsters coming alive reproducing Shakespeare on stage. Schools of all abilities are involved in that.
I have heard it said that by proposing English baccalaureate certificates only in EBacc subjects, we are devaluing arts subjects. The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, my noble friend Lord Storey and the noble Earl mentioned the concern that we are devaluing the arts subjects and that unless performance measures recognise achievements in arts subjects, school leaders will not devote time to them. I do not believe this to be true of good leaders. Let me reassure noble Lords that we are considering these issues and shortly we will be consulting on future accountability measures. I would add in respect of whether the arts should become a sixth pillar that the suitability of an examination structure that is based on limiting internal assessment of arts and cultural subjects would not necessarily lend itself to arts and cultural subjects which rely on the demonstration of practical skills and portfolios of work. It is something else to take into account if we are considering adding pillars to the English baccalaureate.
The interest of noble Lords in this debate is evidence of the passion that this subject rightly inspires. The Secretary of State for Education and the Minister for Culture recently met a range of people in the world of arts, including Sir John Sorrell and Sir Peter Bazalgette, to discuss how best to promote excellent arts education. They have asked our leaders in arts and culture to champion and promote practical experiences and opportunities to complement the national curriculum programmes of studies.
Perhaps I may pick up on one or two of the other points made in the debate. I echo the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, that all disciplines are vital for our collective future, and those of the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, about the need to monitor to see whether these subjects are going into decline as a result of the EBacc coming in. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter reminded us of the importance of religion in music and arts education and, although not directly related to this debate, of the question about whether religion should be a compulsory part of education. I can assure him that all these issues are up for discussion as we move towards the new format for key stage 4. RE is a compulsory subject for pupils, who continue to take it at GCSE level in significant numbers.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hughes of Stretford, reminded us of the international baccalaureate qualification, which of course is taken at the age of 18, not 16. The English baccalaureate is the qualification taken at 16 years old.
I apologise to the noble Baroness because I misunderstood her comment. The international baccalaureate certainly is a wonderfully rounded programme, but it is not suitable for all pupils—just as the English baccalaureate will not be suitable for all pupils. Schools will be able to opt for different ways of meeting the needs of their pupils. A number of noble Lords referred to the inspirational nature of the Olympic and Paralympic Games last year where we saw arts and music so brilliantly on show. They were a true credit to all the skills and talents that we have in this country.
I am conscious that I have not addressed all the issues that were raised in this brief debate, but I can see the strength of feeling in the House which no doubt will manifest itself again and will be relayed to the department when the discussions on these subjects take place. I thank all noble Lords for their wide-ranging and powerful contributions to this fascinating debate. I hope that I have reassured your Lordships that the Government are committed to the arts in the UK. We have demonstrated that commitment by investing more than £2.9 billion over this spending review period. We should never forget that a good education, including high quality arts and cultural education, has the power to change a child’s future, whatever their background. We should be proud of the UK’s international standing in the creative industries and acknowledge the invaluable part that the arts play in the life of the country.