Nicky Morgan is under increasing pressure to make sure school children study an arts subject for GCSE after a petition triggered a parliament debate on the issue.
The Education Secretary last year said all children should be entered into the “core academic subjects” which make up the English Baccalaureate: English, mathematics, history or geography, the sciences and a language.
The Ebacc has been criticised by many in the creative industries for not including an arts subject and 200 organisations, including the Brit School, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the English National Ballet, are all backing the Bacc For The Future campaign to reform the qualification.
A petition on Parliament’s website calling for a reform attracted more than 100,000 signatures, and MPs will debate the matter on July 4.
One of those backing the campaign and planning to speak at the debate is David Warburton MP, a classically-trained pianist and composer who has had his work performed in Covent Garden.
Speaking to the HuffPost UK, the Tory MP for Somerton and Frome said: “The arts are crucial. It’s not just because the arts bring economic benefits to people, but it’s all the other personal benefits you get from them.
“It’s a sad indictment of this country that the arts aren’t valued more.
“Sport gets more money and attention spent on it than the arts. People in France and Germany wouldn’t dream of treating the arts in the way that we do in the UK.”
The most popular GCSEs taken in 2015 were Maths, English Literature, English Language and Science.
The most studied arts subject was Art & Design, ranked 16th overall with just 14.5 per cent of students taking a GCSE in the subject.
In 2010, Art & Design ranked 14th, with an uptake rate of 15.9 per cent.
Other creative arts subjects rankings include:
Drama & Theatre Studies
2010: 15th – 13.1 per cent
2015: 18th – 12 per cent
2010: 24th – 7.5 per cent
2015: 25th – 7.4 per cent
2010: 32nd – 2.4 per cent
2015: 40th – 2 per cent
Over the same period, the uptake of Physical Education/Sports Studies has increased from 17.9 per cent to 18.7 per cent, and it has kept its position as the 13th most studied subject.
The National Union of Teachers is one of those organisations backing reform of the Ebacc, and Kevin Courtney, Acting General Secretary, told the HuffPost UK: “The exclusion of creative subjects from the Ebacc is having a detrimental impact on the curriculum and on children’s learning.
“Parents, like teachers, want a broad and balanced curriculum for their children, but the message from Government is clear: only a narrow range of subjects matter. EBacc, as a measure to judge schools, narrows choice and in a time of real terms funding cuts discourages heads from committing precious resources to other subjects.
“Parents, teachers and pupils want a curriculum that reflects aspiration in all subject areas. It is time the Government listened.”
In January this year, Schools Minister Nick Gibb hit back at suggestions the Ebacc was putting a squeeze on pupils studying creative subjects.
In an opinion piece for the Telegraph, he wrote: “The claim that EBacc squeezes out the arts at GCSE is quite simply wrong. Since the EBacc was introduced, the percentage of state school pupils entered for at least one GCSE in an arts subject has increased from 46 per cent to 50 per cent. Between 2011 and 2015, the number of pupils entered for GCSEs in art and design, music and performing arts have all risen.”
He added: “It is worth considering that opportunities to participate in the arts, unlike other subjects, can exist outside the formal school curriculum. Pupils appear in school plays, sing in choirs and play in orchestras even if they choose not to study a GCSE in music or drama.”