I was recently asked if I would sign a petition protesting at the exclusion of creative and practical subjects from the Ebacc. I know this will probably make me very unpopular, but I declined to do so.
Well, I would, wouldn’t I? I’m a languages teacher. I’ll do whatever it takes to promote my subject. I obviously do not care about the marginalisation and downgrading of practical and creative subjects. I obviously want to see schools become sterile places with no art, music, sport or drama. I’m just a selfish subject specialist.
Actually, no. It’s just that I’ve never heard of a school which doesn’t promote art, music, sport or drama. If you know of any, please let me know and I will change my mind about the Ebacc, because, contrary to what you might suppose, I do believe these subjects are important. Yet I also believe that practical and creative subjects have advantages that English, maths, science, history, geography and foreign languages do not have. Because of these advantages, it makes sense to help subjects which are not so advantaged, to even things out a bit.
Let’s face it, creative and practical subjects are glamorous, extremely glamorous for most young people. There are, I would guess, very few teenagers who are not fascinated by at least one of the following: design, music, sports, acting. Celebrities from these fields are in the media on a daily basis. I admit to not having done a scientific survey, but with 20 years of experience talking to academically able Year 9 pupils about option choices, there are very few who do not want to do at least one practical/creative subject to GCSE. Those that do not will still take compulsory PE, take part in sports competitions and (quite rightly in my view) spend time after school in rehearsals for drama or music productions. There are still (quite rightly in my view) numerous awards and prizes for success in practical and creative subjects, actually far more than for success in other fields. From what I hear, again anecdotally I admit, the fascination of creative and practical subjects is the same for primary pupils. See the following link:
To counter this, teachers of subjects that are less immediately appealing to teenagers go to great lengths to jazz up their subjects and promote them. Fair enough, we need to enthuse pupils. But English, maths, science, history, geography and modern languages cannot match the stream of celebrities from practical and creative subjects which are a substantial part of both social and traditional media.
Ah, but if they’re not in the Ebacc, pupils won’t do the practical and creative subjects, right? Possibly, but I doubt it very much. How many schools will stop putting on drama performances? How many schools will stop putting on concerts? How many schools will cancel sports days? How many schools will stop art exhibitions? How many schools will cancel the celebration of pupils’ accomplishments in these fields? None, I would say, but if you know of any that cancel them, please let me know.
Since English, maths, science, history, geography and foreign languages do not have the inherent advantages of practical and creative subjects, it makes sense to give them a helping hand. One that does not “stop” children from doing practical and creative subjects, but recognizes that teenagers do not always make sensible choices and that subjects which are not immediately appealing are nevertheless part of a broad and balanced education and often become more appealing once they have been studied in some depth. That is why, despite it being unpopular, I support the Ebacc.