Of course, the government has already excised state funding in its entirety from all arts further education in England, including from all the music colleges. While many of us have felt it best to give the directors of those institutions the space and privacy to negotiate behind the scenes for the most positive outcome possible, I can't help feeling we should have yelled a bit more about it from the start. To trumpet the excellence of British arts during the Olympics, while simultaneously removing the hope of training for anyone who can't access the funds to pay for it, represents mendacious hypocrisy at its zenith.
The Incorporated Society of Musicians has produced a strong response to the omission of arts and creativity from the EBac, pointing out that in the end it's the UK economy that's going to suffer. Here's the ISM's statement.
Missed opportunity for the economy as Government forgets the Olympics lessons
The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) – the UK’s professional body for music teachers, performers and composers – has condemned the proposals for GCSE reform which threaten to damage not just our children’s education but also our economy.
Having criticised the English Baccalaureate (EBac) in its original incarnation, the ISM is even more concerned at the present proposals which will increase pressure on pupils to study the six areas of maths, English, sciences, languages and humanities with no creative subjects at all being present.
Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the ISM, said:
‘These proposals represent a missed opportunity to reform our education system. Michael Gove will ensure with these so-called reforms that the UK loses its competitive edge in the fields in which we are world class. It is as if the Olympics never happened. Design – gone, technology – gone, music – gone.
‘This short sighted, wholesale attack on secondary music education will emasculate not only our world class music education system but also our entire creative economy which is estimated as contributing up to 10% of our GDP.
‘In its present form, intellectual and rigorous subjects like music are nowhere to be seen in the EBac offer. In its present form, the CBI, Creative Industries Council, ISM and Cultural Learning Alliance are all seeking reform of the EBac to include at least some of what the UK economy is good at: creativity and culture.’
Diana Johnson, Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education and a former education minister said:
‘The Secretary of State for Education has clearly forgotten all his warm words about music education in the past to launch an assault on music in secondary schools. Music education in the UK is world class, contributing hugely to our economy. The absence of music and any other creative or innovative subject from the EBac will further undermine the UK's progress in some of the growth generating industries of the future. We just saw Olympic and Paralympic closing ceremonies showing off some of the best of British music, design and creativity. The Government should at least include music in the English Baccalaureate.’
Fact checker: Gaps in the Secretary of State’s statement
1. In his statement to Parliament, whilst warning that the previous ‘examination system [had] narrowed the curriculum’ Mr Gove continued to promote the EBac, a course which is causing schools to drop music and other creative and cultural subjects.
2. Whilst claiming that higher education providers back the English Baccalaureate, Mr Gove forgot to mention that advice from the Russell Group only refers to post-16 study, not pre-16 study, and forgot to mention some Universities – like Trinity College Cambridge – make their own list of rigorous subjects which include music.
3. Whilst claiming that the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) had backed ‘widespread view among business that we needed to reform GCSEs’ Mr Gove forgot to mention that the CBI has explicitly criticised the EBac in its present form for omitting creative and technical subjects from the EBac.
‘This Government was formed with the claim that they knew how to get the economy moving, yesterday, they proved that this was not the case. You would be forgiven for forgetting that the Olympics, Cultural Olympiad and Opening and Closing ceremonies had just taken place. You could be forgiven for missing out the importance of creativity, technology and the UK’s leading position in the music industry to our economy.’