Concern over drop in Welsh pupils studying arts

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Image caption,
The number of Welsh students taking exams in drama and music has dropped since 2014

Future generations could "pay the price" for a drop in pupils studying drama and music, the director of National Theatre Wales has warned.

Welsh Government figures show a 22% reduction in students sitting GCSE drama exams since 2014. The number of students taking A-Level music also dropped by 24% in the same period.

Arwel Gruffydd said he was "worried".

The Welsh Government said it was jointly funding a £20m programme to improve creativity in the curriculum.

Mr Gruffydd told BBC Radio Cymru's Post Cyntaf programme: "All cultures who want to thrive have to nurture talent in the arts and foster interest in the arts at a very early age.

"In order to have a healthy society we must have a wide range of arts, as well as a society that thrives scientifically and mathematically.

"It would be a very bleak situation in any culture if you had a language without thriving arts.

"We must remember this, as we could pay the price in future generations."

While there has been a decline in the uptake of drama and music since 2014, other subjects have seen a slight increase, including information and communication technology and social studies, both at GCSE and A-Level.

Gareth Pierce, chief executive of examination board WJEC, said there were a number of reasons behind the fall.

"Core subjects have received more resources... Perhaps to help Wales' standing in the PISA tests," he said.

Image caption,
GCSE drama students in Aberystwyth

He also said there were "less optional subjects" at GCSE and questioned whether students were moving away from the arts because of changing ambitions or provision.

"There's a risk that we'll lose expertise within the teaching workforce," he added.

Gareth Evans, executive director of education policy at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, said the way schools are assessed had perhaps led to "unintended consequences".

"With performance measures placing greater emphasis on core subjects, such as English, Welsh and maths, it is perhaps understandable that schools have chosen to prioritise certain subjects over others," he said.

"But in some cases, this has meant fewer choices being made available to pupils and many of our more traditional subjects being squeezed out altogether."

He added it would be interesting to see what impact recent changes to the capped points score system (Capped 9) have had on the uptake of subjects such as drama and music.

Catrin Jones-Hughes, head teacher at Ysgol Uwchradd Bodedern on Anglesey, said there needed to be a balance between science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM subjects) and the arts.

"There has been a large campaign from the government to promote STEM subjects, but we have included A for arts in our school because you have to be a rounded person," she said.

"The fact that a pupil has chosen to study science does not mean that they don't appreciate the arts. We need to get the balance right."

A Welsh Government spokesman said music and drama were "important subjects" and it is jointly funding a £20m five year programme with the Arts Council for Wales to "improve creativity in the curriculum".

"Creativity along with expressive arts will also place an important part in the new curriculum which we are developing," he added.

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