Lord Nash stubbornly defends EBacc in the face of cross party support for curriculum change

Schools Minister, Lord Nash, rejected calls for a more flexible curriculum to include creative and technical subjects, in a debate in the House of Lords last week, despite cross party support for curriculum change. 

EBacc reform supporter, Conservative member Baroness Stedman-Scott, had secured the debate prompted by concerns that since 2010, entries for GCSE creative subjects have fallen by 28%. Despite the engineering, manufacturing and creative sectors contributing over £500 billion to the UK economy, creative and technical subjects are being squeezed out of the curriculum. Baroness Stedman-Scott said one impact of the EBacc was the 43% drop in entries in Design and Technology, claiming the UK ran the risk of ‘creating a generation of young people who either have a narrow range of academic skills or will feel that they have already failed at the age of 16.’

Edge Chair Lord Baker told the Lords that by the age of 18, only 30 per cent of youngsters will have had any experience of a technical education at all, in contrast to Germany where the figure is 70 per cent. Other contributors to the debate included cross-bencher, Lord Aberdare who supports a broadening of the curriculum; Liberal Democrat Baroness Garden of Frognal, who called on the Government to reverse the decline in craft and creative teaching and learning; Labour Shadow Minister, Lord Watson, who said Labour is ‘not opposed to the EBacc per se’, but argued that without change, ‘the Government will not meet their stated objective of improving technical education.’

Responding after two hours of debate, businessman and Future Academies Director Lord Nash, said:

‘It is clear that there is a strong correlation between high-performing educational jurisdictions and EBacc-type content in their curriculum. Many studies have shown that it is pupils from a disadvantaged background, who may suffer from not having that core cultural capital at home and who particularly benefit from gaining a high cultural capital from academic and arts subjects.’

He went on to quote statistics which he claimed showed an increase in take up of arts subjects and computing. In July, Lord Nash claimed that a substantial increase in the number of pupils taking IT compensated for a decline in arts subjects entries, despite the Government’s own figures showing a drop of 26,800 in entries for arts subjects and 7,550 in computing and IT.

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