Cultural Learning Alliance Report Card – 2024

In partnership with Cultural Learning Alliance


21st May 2024

Read the full Report Card here

The Centre for Education and Youth is delighted to publish a new ‘Report Card’ with The Cultural Learning Alliance. The report draws on a wide range of secondary data analysis and literature to highlight how access to arts education in secondary schools in England has changed since 2010 in relation to five key indicators of access and participation:

  1. The number of GCSE entries into Arts subjects and characteristics of entrants
  2. The number of A-Level entries into Arts subjects and progression to Higher Education
  3. The number of teachers and taught hours in Arts subjects
  4. Arts teacher recruitment and retention
  5. The ‘enrichment gap’ between pupils from higher and lower income backgrounds

Our findings paint a bleak picture of how arts access and participation has worsened since 2010, concluding with a call for much needed policy change to restore the role of the arts in school life.

Below we summarise some of the most troubling findings from our research.

The number of GCSE entries into Arts subjects and characteristics of entrants

  • Since 2010, Arts GCSE entries have declined by 42%. In 2009/2010, 14% of all GCSE entries were in arts subjects; by 2022/2023, this figure had halved (7%)
  • Dropoffs in GCSE entries have been especially steep in Design & Technology (71% between 2010 and 2023) and Dance (48% over the same time period)
  • Between 2016/17 and 2022/23, the percentage of schools with no entries for Music increased by 14% (from 28% to 42%). Similarly, 29% of schools in 2016/17 had no entries for Drama GCSE; this figure had increased to 41% by 2022/23. These figures capture the increasing number of schools where some Arts subjects are not offered at all at a GCSE level

The number of A-Level entries into Arts subjects and progression to Higher Education

  • Between the 2010/11 and 2022/23 academic years, there has been a 21% decrease in Arts entries at A-Levels. The steepest falls in entries are in Dance (a decrease of 56%), Music (43%) and Design & Technology (42%)
  • While the total number of undergraduate degrees being studied in the UK has increased
    by 3.7% between 2011/12 and 2021/22, the number of students studying for an undergraduate degree in Creative Arts and Design subjects has decreased by 6%

The number of teachers and taught hours in Arts subjects

  • In total, there are 14% fewer full or part-time teachers of Arts subjects in English secondary schools in 2022/23 compared to 2011/12. By contrast there are 9% more History teachers and 4% more Maths teachers
  • Between 2011/12 and 2022/23, the fall in teaching hours for Arts subjects (excluding Dance) was 21%
  • There have been dramatic falls in the number of hours of Arts taught at Key Stage 4 and 5, likely reflecting falling entry rates to GCSEs  and A-Levels. By contrast the picture is slightly more complicated with Key Stage 3, where taught hours have increased in some case such as Drama

Arts teacher recruitment and retention

  • Overall figures of recruits in 2023 remain well below where they were in 2010 – the number of Initial Teacher Training (ITT) recruits for Art & Design has fallen by 19% while the number for Music has fallen by a staggering 56%
  • While there were modest improvements in Arts teacher recruitment over the pandemic, the latest data shows a fall between 2021/22 and 2022/23 academic years of 47% fewer Art & Design ITT trainees and 37% fewer Music trainees.
  • Vacancy rate data suggests that retention has worsened in Art & Design and Music between 2010/11 and 2022/23. The vacancy rate for Art & Design has more than tripled in that time period and increased sixfold for Music; this gives Music one of the highest vacancy rates out of any subject

The enrichment gap

  • Young people growing up in the South East of England are twice as likely to play music outside of school, compared to young people in the North East, which is the region of England with the highest level of child poverty
  • Independent schools often have much better Arts facilities and staffing than their peers in the state sector; this allows independent schools to offer specialist provision such as photography, sculpture and digital media. The CVs of Arts teachers in independent schools also show strong industry backgrounds and networks that can be used to support pupils from these schools into professions in the Arts
  • Children living in the least deprived areas in the country are twice as likely to engage in Performing Arts outside of (state) school compared to peers living in the most deprived, but likelihood of engagement with Performing Arts in-school is largely the same across all young people, whatever their socio-economic background


With the above concerning statistics in mind, The Cultural Learning Alliance recommends the following four policy changes to restore the role of the Arts in school life:

  1. Setting new purposes for education – going beyond a curriculum review with the Expressive Arts as core and equal curriculum areas mapped onto the new purposes
  2. Ensuring a minimum four-hour arts entitlement within the school week – to the end of Key Stage 3, enabling high-quality, progressive learning experiences, and provision at Key Stages 4 and 5 outside of exam syllabuses. In addition, there should be extra-curricular Expressive Arts opportunities at all stages and phases of schooling
  3. Implementing changes to the school accountability system – ensuring it no longer adversely impacts Expressive Arts subjects and changes to student assessment aligned with the recommendations of ‘Rethinking Assessment’
  4. Introducing an entitlement to teacher training and teacher development – ensuring CPD opportunities for Expressive Arts subjects

Want to learn more?

Please get in touch with report author and CfEY Head of Policy, Baz Ramaiah. You might also be interested in CfEY’s recent report on Education and Enrichment with the National Citizens Service Trust and Duke of Edinburgh Award, where we set out how the education and youth sectors can work together to improve young people’s access to the arts outside of the classroom.