Tough future for students without arts

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A ”chilling” glimpse into the challenges facing teachers has been given by a South Holland headteacher.

Martyn Taylor, of the Thomas Cowley High in Donington, went to London on Thursday to discover the Shape of Future Schools and said it was “sobering stuff”.

Among those addressing teachers was the Under Secretary of State Elizabeth Truss.

Mr Taylor said he returned to school the next day concerned for both his teachers and staff.

By 2017, out will go the modular system of testing and course work and all GCSE focus will be on a single set of exams in the same way today’s students’ parents or grandparents were taught.

Year 11s can expect to be facing 25 to 30 hours of exams on maths, English, science. modern foreign languages, geography and history.

In addition, the more practically orientated arts, music, technology, media and drama – described as bizarre subjects – are unlikely to have a place in the exam curriculum.

Mr Taylor said: “That was the chilling thing – to be told that some of these subjects will no longer be GCSEs and they will take them out entirely.

“That is unbelievable when you look at the number of jobs involving arts and the entertainment industry.”

Comparisons were given of education systems in Germany and the United States which were said to be successful.

However, Mr Taylor said he was not convinced.

He said: “The only students who will be successful are those who are good at exams and all eggs will be in one basket. It’s tough if you are not feeling well on that day.

“These countries have been cherry picked. I can think of comparisons too – like in Finland and Ontario – where quality and equity is the key.

“That’s what my school stands for but I am seriously concerned for my students. Eighteen per cent of students who come here have a reading age of under six, but many go on to get jobs or apprenticeships because we also teach them confidence and life skills.

“What kind of future will they have now? Grammar schools will be laughing all the way to the bank because schools like mine will be hard-pressed to do as well for students.

“The system is changing to discriminate against them and make it harder for teachers who are measured by their success.

“It’s sobering stuff.

“I’ve every confidence in my staff and we will buckle down to make sure students can be the best they can be.

“But from the new term we will be focused down on Tuesday, May 30, 2017 – English literature paper 1.

“Right now that’s depressing but by the start of the new term I might be able to call it challenging.”