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A new report examining entries to arts subjects concludes performance measures have impacted on the reduction in pupils taking arts GCSEs


A new report, Entries to arts subjects at key stage 4 published by the Education Policy Institute (EPI), has drawn on data covering arts subject entries at key stage 4 (KS4), between 2007 and 2016, and concludes that the Ebacc and Progress 8 performance measures are factors which have impacted on the reduction in pupils taking arts GCSE subjects.

The key findings include comparisons between different regions, and variations by pupil characteristics, such as gender, socio-economic status, and prior attainment.


The EPI report found:

The study looked at exam entries for art and design; drama and theatre; media, film and TV studies; music; dance and performing arts by 14- to 16-year-olds between 2007 and 2016. It found that:

The average number of exam entries per student in 2016 was 0.7 – this was lower than at any other time in the period under review;

The proportion of pupils taking at least one arts subject in 2016 was 53.5 per cent – this was the lowest figure for the decade (it was 57.1 per cent in 2014);

If the same proportion of pupils had taken at least one arts subject in 2016 as in 2014, then around 19,000 more students would have studied an arts-based course last year;
Provisional data relating to 2017 exam entries indicate that the decline is continuing.


The EPI gathered evidence directly from teachers and school leaders, and combined this with evidence from published government data. This led to the following conclusions:

EBacc, Progress 8, and wider financial issues were regarded by participants as placing pressure on arts entries. The picture is mixed, however, with the impact depending the school’s context, and whether school leaders prioritise arts subjects.

The report says: 'The EBacc does not bar access to the arts for those who take it, but it does limit the number of option subject slots that can be filled by non-EBacc subjects.'

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21 Sep 2017