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Number of students taking GCSE drama drops by nearly 10 per cent

By: stagedoorscribbler - July 24, 2017

David Harewood: attending live theatre should be compulsory for GSCE drama students

For anyone interested in the theatre and performing arts it is worrying to hear that the number of students taking drama GCSE has dropped by nearly 10 per cent in the past  year.

The figure released by Ofqual - the body in charge of exams across England  - fuels the argument that the new English Baccalaureate is the enemy of creativity in schools.

It shows that entries for all non-EBacc subjects, including drama, are down and that 300 fewer students sat drama as a GCSE subject this summer. The take-up of all GCSE arts subjects meanwhile has fallen by and alarming 46,000 since 2016.

The figures follow complaints from leading actors  last year attacking a move that said GCSE drama courses did not have to require students to attend live theatre performances.

David Harewood, Robert Lindsay, Brian Cox, Zoe Wanamaker and Sheila Hancock were among those criticising new syllabuses that allowed pupils to watch digital recordings. 

Harewood, who was among a number actors who signed a letter of protest to the SundayTimes, told the paper: “Giving kids the chance to see live theatre should not just be free, it should be compulsory.”

The campaign group Bacc for the Future say the figures confirm the devastating effect that EBacc is having on the arts. They are opposed to the policy introduced in 2010 which measures school performances by calculating the number of students achieving at least a C grade GCSE in ‘core’ subjects. They include English, maths, sciences, a language and either geography or history but no arts subjects.

However theses  claims are refuted by the independent charity the New Schools Network which says EBacc has not had a discernible impact on the popularity of arts at GCSE and is not stifling cultural education in England’s schools. We wait to see.