GCSE arts entries plummet for ninth year in row, 'alarming' data shows

The Stage

25 Aug 2023

by Gemma Nettle

Entry to GCSE arts subjects has declined for the ninth year in a row, with Campaign for the Arts warning that the “alarming” trend should be a “wake-up call” to address the loss of creative subjects from secondary schools.

The charity, which works to expand access to the arts and culture for the public, has released an analysis of data from exam boards JCQ and AQA.

It said that across all subjects, the number of GCSE and A-level entries had increased by 10%, up to 5.9 million, and 2%, up to 868,000, respectively, since 2010.

However, entries to arts subjects have “fallen significantly” over the same period, by 47% at GCSE and 29% at A level.

This means that of those 5.9 million GCSE entries across the board, only 7.1% were to arts subjects, and 10.9% of the 868,000 A-level entries were to arts subjects.

For performing arts in GCSE there was a fall of 72% from 2010 to 2023, while drama experienced a 45% drop and dance saw a 60% decrease.

At A level, there has been a decline in entries to arts subjects every year since 2010, except in 2020 when the figure was the same as the year before, meaning uptake has been less or the same for 13 years in a row.

For performing arts A-level entries, there has been a 68% decrease since 2010, while in dance there has been a 57% drop and drama has seen a 45% fall.

Jack Gamble, director of the Campaign for the Arts, said: “This should be a wake-up call urgently to address the way that arts subjects have been squeezed out of England’s state schools over recent years.

“Government ministers say they value cultural learning and the contribution it makes to children’s development, well-being and life chances. Yet they have completely excluded arts subjects from the English Baccalaureate and repeatedly failed to deliver the ’Arts Premium’ they promised to secondary schools.”

Gamble labelled these trends “alarming” and felt they were the result of “negligence” within the educational system.

“Every young person, whatever school they go to and whatever their background, should have the opportunities and backing to pursue an arts-rich education as part of a broad and balanced curriculum,” he added.

Campaign for the Arts explained that the decline had significant implications for the education and aspirations of young people and the arts education workforce, stressing it could affect the health and diversity of the UK creative industries.