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Stop the marginalisation of the Expressive Arts in education policy

This petition had 13,877 supporters

The expressive arts, including drama, music, fine art, dance and photography are the lifeblood of our nation and our identity. From Shakespeare to Danny Boyle, via every other author, artist, actor, comedian, playwright, sculptor, architect, rock band, director, dancer, composer, journalist, choreographer… the expressive arts contribute to how the world sees us. The creative industries are vital to our economy. According to UNESCO the UK is the world’s largest exporter of cultural goods. This is achieved with a tax payer investment which is 0.1 percent of the recent HBOS bailout. Not only that, with this tax payer investment we generate more economic activity than tourism, and we do this without a bonus culture, and without a ‘talent drain’. 6.2% of the UK’s local income (GVA) comes from the creative industries, the arts provide over 2m jobs and are mentioned by 8 out of 10 tourists as a reason for their visit.

However, Michael Gove and the coalition government have set in place policies which marginalise the arts, restrict access to arts courses by children and which will, over time, threaten the future of our artistic success story. They include:

• The EBacc, a measure that excludes all arts subjects, as well as technical subjects, compelling all schools to restrict access to arts courses or risk failing on a league table. Here is a more recent article in which, amongst other things, Mike Nicholson, the admissions tutor for Oxford University, states clearly that they look for a broad range of subjects at GCSE level and do not consider the EBacc at all:
• Dance and drama being classed as one subject on school league tables, meaning that students will be dissuaded from taking both subjects as it makes the school look bad, this is despite the proven fact that performing arts colleges in the FE and HE sector are often looking for the triple threat of a student with dance, drama and music experience.
• The removal of standards for speaking and listening from the national curriculum, at all key stages, meaning that schools are no longer compelled to teach or assess a student’s ability to do either of those things.
• The dominance of negative rhetoric about arts subjects as not “rigorous” when students up and down the country know how hard so many of their courses are. An A* student of Drama & Theatre Studies has to be both highly academic and creative and talented. How many students can lay claim to that?

Here's the final insult. Now it transpires that Ofqual are consulting about banning up to 20, so called, "soft" subjects from the GCSE standard, subjects including PE and Media as well, so that all students are left to choose from as GCSEs are traditional subjects and the rest as devalued and less academic alternative qualifications.

We want an end to this short sighted, Orwellian drive to force the arts from our children’s schools before we drive creativity, passion and enjoyment from our primary and secondary schools.

We demand the abolition of the EBacc measure or the inclusion of the arts within it.

We demand that all arts subjects be given equal billing with other, non-core subjects in terms of how they contribute to school league tables for GCSE results.

We want all our children to have continued access to a wide and exciting curriculum, without restrictions being placed on subjects which are just ideologically out of favour with the current ruling elite of public school educated professional politicians.

We want the national curriculum for Key Stages 1-4 to reinstate explicit descriptors for speaking and listening.

We want Gove, the DfE and the government to acknowledge the importance of the cultural industry to our national identity and to our economy and to talk up the importance of the arts in our schools and our country.

In solidarity with our colleagues in PE departments, teachers of Media Studies and teachers of the miriad other, so-called, soft subjects, we also demand that this regressive and ridiculous narrowing of school curiculi, by mesuring schools' success only by the core and facilitating subjects, ends immediately.

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