EBacc continues to marginalise RE and the arts


The English Baccalaureate is continuing to have an adverse effect on what schools teach, with new evidence showing that non-EBacc subjects are being hit harder than ever.

The English Baccalaureate is continuing to have an adverse effect on what schools teach, with new evidence showing that non-EBacc subjects are being hit harder than ever.

Subjects such as religious education and art and design are being squeezed off timetables as schools reorganise their curricula to accommodate the EBacc subjects.

Campaigners now fear the worst after education secretary Michael Gove unveiled the English Baccalaureate Certificate exam reforms last month, confirming that the EBacc subjects will remain the core focus for government.

It is estimated that nearly half of schools have changed their curricula to suit the EBacc. 

Subject organisations have expressed concern at the move, claiming that the emphasis on a narrow range of subjects will see an end of a balanced and broad curriculum for millions of children.

In a report published last week, the National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE) revealed that the subject is in decline since the government began talk of an EBacc two years ago. 

The impact was being seen not only in a decline in examination entries but also in the curriculum. Despite being a compulsory subject, thousands of students are not receiving any RE teaching at all.

Research carried out by NATRE of 625 schools in England, over a period of six weeks in June and July this year, found that a third of schools reported that the legal requirement was not being met in key stage 4 – an increase of five per cent on 2011.

Nearly a quarter of schools reported a reduction in the number of specialist staff employed to teach RE for 2012/13, and 82 per cent of these reported that the introduction of the EBacc was the main reason for this change. 

More than half – 54 per cent – of schools reported that they will have no entries for GCSE short course in 2014, a rise of 12 per cent over two years. 

More than six out of 10 schools that reported a drop in full course entries cited the EBacc as the main reason, up from 55 per cent in 2011. A fifth of schools were now delivering RE in less than the recommended teaching time, which was harming learning. 

Rosemary Rivett, NATRE’s executive officer, told SecEd: “The government is saying it is not changing the requirements for RE but the reality is that schools are prioritising what they teach based on ministerial pronouncements. They are making decisions based on the political context.

“We are even finding that some Catholic schools are reducing the amount of RE they teach at key stage 3, which demonstrates the extent of the problem. Yet RE is a rigorous and academic subject.

“Teachers of RE are now feeling quite desperate in their schools as they are often the only member of staff teaching the subject. In some schools, RE teachers have been offered early retirement and not replaced as the subject is absorbed into other areas of the curriculum.

“We are calling on RE teachers all over the country to make their MPs aware of what is happening in our schools. This is still a compulsory subject and we need to know why schools are neglecting it.”

Meanwhile, the National Society for Education in Art and Design said it was seeing a huge drop in the numbers of students taking those subjects, as both teachers and parents steered young people towards EBacc subjects. Since 2006 there has been a 16 per cent drop in pupil take up at GCSE for art and design, but areas such as music and drama are also affected.

Lesley Butterworth, the organisation’s general secretary, said: “The EBacc is the most toxic thing that has happened to cultural education ever. Our teachers are aware of the challenges that the EBacc brings to art and design and indeed to all the cultural subjects, and feel that they need up their game in order to ensure that future generations of children take the subjects. 

“We need to really advocate hard for the depth, value and importance of these subjects and the contribution they make economically to the creative industries and culturally to the wellbeing of society.”


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