On 15 August – yesterday, as I write this – Music Teacher and the Incorporated Society of Musicians launched a campaign to get the English Baccalaureate reviewed to include a sixth pillar of creative subjects which would include music. We ran the following news story on our website, www.musicteachermagazine.co.uk:
The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) and Music Teacher magazine are calling for the government to review the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) with the aim of including music in a sixth pillar of creative and cultural academic subjects.
Everyone can help campaign to get music included in the EBacc by writing a letter to their MP telling her or him of their concerns. The ISM has created a template for what people might like to say, which can be downloaded from http://www.ism.org/news/article/ebacc_revision.
The EBacc ranks schools on the proportion of pupils who get an A* to C grade in five pillars of subject options: maths, English, a language, a science and a humanities subject. But the respected (and higher level) International Baccalaureate (IB) has six pillars of subjects for pupils to pick from, including a creative and cultural option.
Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the ISM, said: ‘We want to see music included in the English Baccalaureate as part of a sixth pillar of creative and cultural subject choices. Not only is music challenging and enriching as a subject in schools, but to forget music at GCSE level is to forget the creative, social, academic, economic, emotional and intellectual benefits of an excellent music education; this is to say nothing of its own unique musical value.’
Christopher Walters, editor of Music Teacher magazine, said: ‘Essentially a performance measure, the EBacc will inevitably have negative consequences for any subjects that are excluded from it. Music Teacher is therefore delighted to be part of a campaign not only to include music but to introduce an entire sixth pillar of creative subjects, which we believe would greatly improve the impact of the EBacc in our schools.’
The influential Education Select Committee, a cross-party committee of MPs, published a report last week calling on the government to revise its current arrangements and ‘think again’. The committee also called the decision to omit music ‘odd’ and could not see a ‘rationale’ behind this decision.
Deborah Annetts welcomed the report and said: ‘The Select Committee report was clear: the government must revise its decisions around what constitutes an English Baccalaureate. At the same time, they must be open and transparent in accepting that the current proposal does not constitute a ‘Baccalaureate’ but rather a league table or performance ranking.
‘The government has said it is prepared to listen and that is why we are asking musicians to write to their MP to ask them to support the review of the EBacc with the aim of including music in an additional subject option.’
In the first 24 hours, the campaign has been reported by the Independent, the Guardian and the BBC news website, each one carrying the following comment from the Department for Education:
‘The EBacc is there to make sure that every single child gets a chance to study the core academic subjects which top universities demand. But the EBacc is not the be all and end all.
‘The White Paper made clear that this is “only one measure of performance and should not be the limit of schools’ ambitions for their pupils”.
‘We’ve protected £82.5m funding for music services this year and are reforming the system so money is targeted where it is needed most in the future.’
While it is tremendously exciting to receive this high level of coverage, the government’s response is similar to what they have said before. If we are to change their minds, then, we must keep up the pressure.
This campaign has the potential to achieve its goals. It is a collaborative effort, which anyone is music education is welcome to get behind. And more than a self-interested campaign for music, it is a call to protect the wider creative and cultural education of our young people, whatever their educational needs.
Watch this blog and the MT and ISM websites for more campaign news – there’ll be plenty. Meanwhile, I would urge you to take a first step and download and complete the template letter to your MP. Many MPs appear to be unaware of the effects that the government’s policies may have on music education, so making sure that as many of them are informed as possible would be a good place to start.