Dance in Education Update

7 Apr 2017

Whilst we continue to wait for the government’s response to the EBacc consultation, there have been some significant remarks made by Ministers in recent speeches and research by Arts Professional that have raised some pertinent questions.

ZooNation Youth Co at Bacc for the Future Gathering © Chirague

At both the New Schools Network (NSN) EBacc Report launch (National Portrait Gallery, 7th February 2017) and a House of Lords Enquiry meeting Matt Hancock MP (Minister of State for Digital & Culture) has raised the view that: openly talking about a decrease in arts subject time and options, is contributing to its own demise. The suggestion is that by talking about reductions in arts in school, encourages schools to think that they should also reduce their arts provision.

If we just say it’s all going to the dogs, we may be in danger of people hearing that message and thinking that’s the way to go.” – Matt Hancock MP

This argument poses problems for the arts sector who have long been championing high quality arts education in schools. For One Dance UK, which has been making the case for dance to be available to all KS4 & KS5 pupils, despite the EBacc, this point of view is challenging. Whilst the sector is usually keen to highlight schools that are maintaining their arts provision, (see our article first published in One Magazine, October 2016); we’re also dealing with regular communication from our teacher and school members, who describe to us the situation where their dance provision has been decreased or cut entirely. Their concerns cannot be ignored.

Arts Professional published their views on the NSN Report’s findings and concluded that: “Incomplete analysis and a failure to reveal the wider context have compromised the integrity of an influential report claiming there is “no evidence” that the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) has affected GCSE arts entries.” Where the NSN had reported that there had been no detrimental effect on the take-up of arts GCSEs since the EBacc; Arts Professional found that, when taking into account Design Technology: “Arts GCSEs as a proportion of all GCSEs fell from 7.6% in 2011/12 to 6.8% in 2015/16.”

One Dance UK’s own research into the numbers of pupils taking GCSE Dance, has shown a reduction of 15% in those taking the qualification since 2011/12, the same period covered by the NSN report.

To clarify the current situation of arts education in schools, the Cultural Learning Alliance, a body comprising 12,000 members across the arts, heritage and cultural sectors, published their view on the “true picture of arts in schools today.” This provides an overview of a range of findings from various surveys and reports. It paints a complex picture, but also provides a clear message that even those who dispute the claim that the number of young people taking arts subjects is reducing, everyone wants cultural education to be valued and supported in schools. As Nick Gibb MP (Schools Minister) and Matt Hancock stated in the forward for the NSN Report:

This Government strongly believes that the arts and culture should be for everyone and not just a privileged few. They are hugely valuable in and of themselves, and they have the potential to be forces for openness and social mobility. Britain’s future will be determined by the combination of our creative flair and technical expertise, so it is vital that the next generation is well prepared by having a well-rounded education.  

One Dance UK can see the wisdom in moving beyond a battle of the stats, which can be used to suit either side of the debate, and instead focus on the areas in which we all agree: Children and young people have a right to access arts and cultural education in their school. We believe it is our role as the lead Subject Association for dance in school, to champion the place of dance across all Key Stages and in all schools. We have been meeting with teachers to discuss the issues and have produced guidance for school governors on developing strong dance education in their school.

We encourage headteachers and school governors to exercise their power to ensure all children have a broad and balanced curriculum, one that is rich and enriching across all subjects and allows pupils to develop their knowledge and skills, through high quality specialist teaching.