Shadow Attorney General Catherine McKinnell MP brought the petition to the floor on 4 July, after the petition (started by a teacher and supported by Bacc for the Future) to include arts in the EBacc garnered over 100,000 signatures. In her contribution to the debate, she questioned the government’s stance on the differentiation between so-called academic subjects (citing history and geography) and arts subjects.
While Blackpool MP Richard Marsden argued the fundamental: “What is measured is what gets valued.” SNP MP for Motherwell and Wishaw Marion Fellows followed up: “There is a danger that we will exclude huge numbers of children from an education in the expressive arts by focusing on what is seen by some as more “useful” or “academic” subjects.”
Despite argument on the matter, the Minister of the State for Schools, Conservative MP Nick Gibb, said that there was already ample room for students studying the EBacc to also take up an arts subject, or high-quality vocation pathway “in addition to those core academic subjects”. He maintained that “There is no reason why the EBacc should imperil the status of arts subjects,” and that enforcement of arts subjects would conversely limit free choice, and possibly disadvantage students from poor backgrounds who want to take a more academic pathway.
He concluded that the government’s position would be maintained, saying: “We believe that for too long pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds have been dismissed, missing out on the core academic curriculum that is taken as a given by their more affluent peers. Our EBacc policy will ensure that that is no longer the case.”
David Lammy MP for Tottenham has thrown his support behind the issue, relaying: “I was recently at the London College of Fashion, which with Goldsmiths and all the other art colleges is asking, “Where are the working-class students?” They have disappeared from the system…excluding expressive arts subjects from the EBacc will compound the problem.”
Deborah Annetts, co-founder and coordinator of the Bacc for the Future campaign and chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, has refused to back down on the issue. “It is disappointing that the minister’s response failed to address these valid concerns, and failed to address the recent decline in entries for arts subjects,” she says. “We will be writing to the minister to follow up his comments and respond in detail to his speech.”
In response, MPs from across the political spectrum raised the concerns of the hundreds and thousands of individuals:
David Lammy ✔@DavidLammy"Where are the working class students?" - my speech in great#EBACCdebate yesterday #EBACChttp://www.davidlammy.co.uk/#!Creative-education-debate/em4gf/577b74670cf2c9f8a0f3b1e3 …
Fiona Mactaggart ✔@fionamacmp#Ebacc debate so frustrating: MPs get that music drama dance etc give young people the skills to create their future but not govt minister
MimsDaviesMP @mimsdaviesCurrently listening to very interesting debate re:expressive arts subjects & the EBacc.Really vital creative arts remain valued & supported
Royal Academy ✔@royalacademy"Restricting creative subjects reduces the life chances of young people" – @CatMcKinnellMP on #EBACCdebate#baccforthefuture
Gordon Marsden MP @GordonMarsdenAm in excellent W Min Hall debate on EBACC & concerns about Govt failing expressive arts widely & passionately made. Concern across parties
David Warburton MP ✔@DJWarburtonWell said @BedfordVann on @BBCr4today. Brilliant. Look forward to debating EBacc and #arts in #parliament later today.#baccforthefuture
Catherine McKinnell ✔@CatMcKinnellMPGreat passionate speech from @SharonHodgsonMP on including arts in the #EBacc - why can't children be given the choice? #EBACCdebate
Sharon Hodgson MP ✔@SharonHodgsonMPGrt to meet campaigners ahead of #EBaccdebate today. Creativity is central to our humanity & should be in school too