Home / Impacts / Entries to Arts Subjects at Key Stage 4 a Report by Education Policy Institute
Entries to Arts Subjects at Key Stage 4 a Report by Education Policy Institute
Entries to Arts Subjects at Key Stage 4 a Report by Education Policy Institute seeks to provide clarity to debate surrounding the impact of Ebacc and Progress 8 on the take up of Arts Subjects at A-Level.
Changes to school accountability measures in recent years have focused on increasing the take-up of a group of core academic subjects. The introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) and of Progress 8 has prompted concerns that arts subjects may be at risk, as they are not included in the EBacc. This report offers new insights into this issue by analysing trends in entries to arts subjects by Key Stage 4 cohorts between 2007 and 2016. It includes comparisons between different regions, and variations by pupil characteristics, such as gender, socio-economic status, and prior attainment. In order to identify potential causes of the patterns identified, the statistical analysis is supplemented by small-scale qualitative research obtained via a survey and interviews with current secondary school teachers.
It’s well worth reading the entire report but some key takeaways that might be of interest are:
Accounting for variation in cohort size, entries to arts subjects by Key Stage 4 cohorts have declined over the past couple of years, following several years of gradual increases.The 2016 entry rates are the lowest of the decade. 1
The average number of arts entries per pupil has fallen since 2013, standing at 0.70 in 2016; this is lower than at any other time in the period under review and comes after an increase between 2010 and 2013 from 0.75 to 0.80.
Similarly, the proportion of pupils taking at least one arts subject fell in both 2015 and 2016, reaching 53.5 per cent in the latter year. Again, this is the lowest figure for the decade and follows an increase between 2010 and 2014, from 55.6 per cent to 57.1 per cent.
If in 2016 the same proportion of pupils had taken at least one arts entry as in 2014, then this would have resulted in around 19,000 more pupils accessing an arts subject; if the same proportion had been evident as in 2007 then this would have meant just over 11,000 more pupils doing so.
Evidence from teachers and school leaders indicates that various factors are placing pressure on arts subjects, including the EBacc, Progress 8, and financial issues. However, the extent to which this pressure impacts on a school’s arts provision depends on the precise combination of these factors within the school’s specific context, and the extent to which school leaders are able or willing to prioritise arts subjects under these circumstances.
It is likely that it is the EBacc element of Progress 8 which is currently particularly putting pressure on arts subjects, by limiting the number of option subject slots that can be filled by non-EBacc subjects. Progress 8 reserves a total of five slots for EBacc subjects, although it does not require pupils to be entered for all components of the EBacc. It is therefore likely to be considered accessible for a greater number of pupils. In addition, unlike the EBacc, Progress 8 is used to assess whether a school has met the minimum floor standard. This means that the incentives are stronger for schools to ensure that pupils fulfil its requirements. In 2016, the year that Progress 8 was first used across all schools, the proportion of pupils entered for four EBacc components rose by 10.8 percentage points, compared to a 1 percentage point increase in the proportion of pupils entered for the full EBacc. Schools currently appear to be entering pupils for a greater number of EBacc subjects, but not in a way that is increasing the proportion that are entered for the full EBacc – in other words, the behaviour seems to be in response to improving Progress 8 outcomes rather than improving the EBacc measure itself.