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Facilitating Subjects

02/09/2014

The NAMHE Committee today sent the following message regarding Facilitating Subjects for the attention of Mrs Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education:

Dear Mrs Morgan,

We are writing to you on behalf of NAMHE (National Association of Music in Higher Education) to urge you to review the use of Facilitating Subjects in School and College Performance Tables. Whilst the reduction of the use of Facilitating Subjects from 3 to 2 in the 2014 'School and College Performance Tables – Statement of Intent' is much to be welcomed, we are still concerned about the persistent claim that Facilitating Subjects are a measure of high attainment and academic rigour, which could be interpreted as implying that A-level success in subjects not classified as 'Facilitating' is not.

Music, in common with many of the Creative Arts, requires a high degree of application, self-motivation, and a strong work ethic. All of these attributes not only represent a very high degree of academic rigour, but are also easily transferrable to other subjects. The Creative Arts, moreover, can be studied at A level, and beyond, as part of a well-rounded education, in combination with other subjects, 'Facilitating' or not.

As you will be aware, the Russell Group initially devised their list of Facilitating Subjects to help young people choose A-level subjects which would give them the widest choice of future study at university. They never intended the concept of Facilitating Subjects to be used in the way that the DfES has decided to do. The – albeit unintentional – consequence of the use of Facilitating Subjects in Performance Tables is to distort schools' and colleges' priorities in such a way that the curriculum is narrowed, with negative consequences for a great many students.

The UK has been known internationally for its excellence in the Creative Arts for many decades. The exclusion of Creative-Arts subjects, including Music, Drama, Art, and Design, from the Facilitating Subjects has already led to decline in the number of students choosing these subjects at A level, and will ultimately jeopardise the UK's leading reputation for excellence in these fields, which contributes so significantly to the cultural and economic life of the nation.

We urge you to look again at the use of Facilitating Subjects in School and College Performance Tables, and to re-consider how concentration upon these subjects is affecting the choices and advice being offered to young people. As you will be aware, Russell-Group universities do not emphasise Facilitating Subjects in their admissions criteria other than when an A-level subject is vital for admission to a particular degree programme.

We very much hope that you will take the time to reflect on how the application of Facilitating Subjects to School and College Performance Tables is affecting the choices, lives, and futures of young people in the UK today.

Please do not hesitate to contact us, if we can be of any further assistance to you.

With best wishes

Dr Laura Hamer
on behalf of the NAMHE Committee

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