Huge decline in arts subjects worsens at GCSE and A-level

Since 2010, arts enrolment has dropped by 47% at GCSE and 29% at A-level.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, GCSEs are the main qualifications taken by 14 to 16-year-olds. A-levels are the main qualifications taken by 16 to 18-year-olds.

This summer’s results, which contain figures on the number of entrants per subject, show that the decline in arts subjects has worsened yet again. At both GCSE and A-level, every arts subject is being taught to a smaller proportion of entrants than was the case in 2010.

It has major implications for the education and aspirations of our young people, the arts education workforce and the health and diversity of our creative industries.

What do the figures show?

What about Scotland?

In Scotland, National 5s (N5s) are the main qualifications taken by 14 to 16-year-olds. Scottish Highers are the main qualifications taken by 16 to 18-year-olds.

State schools in Scotland enrol students in N5s and Highers. Some independent schools do the same, but others opt for GCSEs and A-levels or some mix aspects of both systems. The Campaign for the Arts reports GCSE and A-level entries at the level of the whole United Kingdom.

How and why has this happened?

There are a number of factors behind the dramatic decline. A recent report, The Arts in Schools: Foundations for the Future, concluded that:

“At every stage in the schooling system the arts are disadvantaged: at initial teacher recruitment and training through to a lack of support for arts teaching in primary schools. The prioritisation of EBacc (nonarts) subjects in secondary accountability measures has meant a reduction in the level of arts subjects, teachers and resources available, and therefore declining GCSE and A Level take-up. Dance and drama have no parity at inspection level, and film and digital media have been excluded from the national curriculum. We have an assessment regime that does not work for arts subjects, which require different kinds of measurement, and the investment required to develop these has not been made because of their perceived low status. Finally, we have the long tail of the exclusion of the arts from the higher education facilitating subjects list before 2019, thereby further disincentivising arts takeup. Loss of subjects and teachers cannot easily be reversed. This downgrading of the arts is damaging for young people’s lives and aspirations, for the arts education workforce, for the workforce more widely, and for the health and diversity of the creative industries. And access to the arts is not equitable: we have a two-tier system, with the arts more highly valued in independent schools.”



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