GCSE results show a substantial rise in the number of students completing Art & Design specifications this year. According to Ofqual the total numbers of students taking art and design in England* has risen by 8.7%, with 166,325 completions in 2018 and 182,205 reported this year.
We celebrate the increase in the number of students completing an art and design GCSE specification, alongside a very modest rise last year in the headcount of Art & Design teachers (0.62%), and in the number of hours taught (0.16%) in English Secondary schools. We have no doubt that this positive news reflects the hard work, dedication and commitment of our teachers and schools to art, craft and design. Art and design educators have worked together to promote and defend our subject and NSEAD is proud to support that work on behalf of our members, our subject and learners across all phases – together we can and do make a difference.
However, any rise in students completing Art & Design specifications must be seen in the context of the continued fall in others arts and design subjects and the past, present and future challenges faced by our subject.
We remain concerned that music has seen a decrease of -3% in music; -1% in drama and -12% media/film. Also confirmed today, is the continued fall in D&T GCSE completions, -23% (in England). NSEAD first reported on the concerning fall in D&T numbers in 2918. This year we have learned that some of our members have been asked to teach GCSE Art and Design in D&T and that both subjects are wrongly being treated as interchangable. We are supporting teachers and senior leadership teams to better understand the distinct and complementary nature of both subjects and their respective specifications. They are not interchangable, nor or they mutually exclusive and it is not a case of either-or. Some career and study pathways require Art & Design, some require D&T and many require both. Without a broad curriculum the pipeline that feeds our booming design industry is being choked at source.
According to JCQ, Wales has seen the biggest percentage increase in GCSE art and design completions with a 13.1% increase. This compares to a -1.4% decrease for Northern Ireland and as reported above 8.7% increase in completions for England.
In Scotland the main concern this first year of the revised course specification, is the drop in design marks at Higher with a mean mark of 53.8% (in 2018 the mean mark was 67.7%). This is on the back of year on year cries of concern that teacher do not understand how design is being marked.
More alarming is the continued drop in mean mark for the N5 question paper which averaged 34.2% a considerable drop from pervious years.
The past, present and future challenges
We must also not lose sight of the bigger picture. Between 2000 and 2009 there 207,000 on average completions a year. Since 2010 this has fallen to 184,000 on average a year – meaning there are 23K less completions each year. This recent welcome increase in GCSE entries is a positive spike in a long-term trend of decline. The extremely modest increase in teacher and curriculum time must also be seen in the context of the last nine years. Since 2010 we have witnessed 10% fewer Art & Design specialist teachers in our schools. In 2018 (across all schools and phases) there were 16% fewer hours of art and design taught than in 2010 – a bigger loss even than music or drama. This represents nearly a decade of teachers losing their jobs and students losing choice – with life chances limited in turn. It will take more than this year’s increase to reverse the impact of these trends. One fine day does not make a summer.
So, whilst celebrating the gains and achievements of this year, we assure our members that we will continue to challenge the policies that have had a long-term impact on our subject. We will continue to support all NSEAD members to help them and their departments make clear and explicit the important distinction between art and design and D&T. We stand alongside other Arts colleagues who call on the Government to end the damaging hierarchy of subjects created by the Ebacc, the limiting influence of progress 8, and to address the funding crisis in our schools.
Further analysis and sources
The gap between girls' and boys' art and design completions have grown again this year. This year 65,411 boys completed the exam compared to 130,517 girls. Out of 50 subjects, and in terms of gender and participation, art and design remains the fifth worse performing subject.
In 2018, 2.2% of boys completed the GCSE, in 2019 this increased to 2.4%. A difference on 2.2%
In 2018, 4.3% of girls completed the GCSE, in 2019 this increased to 4.7%. A difference of 2.3%. NSEAD is seeking ways to address this marked and growing divide in boys' and girls participation. If you are interested in participating in this work, and have good practice case studies to share, please contact nsead.
The gender attainment gap has however seen an improvement.
In 2018, the gap or difference between boys and girls achieving an A/7+ was 15.8%
In 2019, the gap has closed to 15.6%. Whilst this is a modest change, following last year’s rise, it is a step in the right direction.
Ofqual's results and analytics can be downloaded here
JCQ's results, which includes data for England, Wales and Northern Ireland can be downloaded here
* NSEAD will publish more data for Scotland, via SQA, later in the year. This will include additional information across nations regarding the gender achievement and participation gap.