GCSE art and design candidate numbers have fallen to the lowest level recorded this century

Today thousands of young people across England, Wales and Northern Ireland receive their GCSE results. The Society wishes to thank the teachers and educators, and families of those young people who have taught and supported them along this journey. The engagement with art, craft and design at this level will be unique and valuable, all these young people will have benefitted greatly from your commitment and expertise.

The Society scrutinises the results published by the Joint Council Qualifications (JCQ) every year, and has identified the following trends:

The total number of students (male & female) sitting art and design GCSE subjects has fallen for the second consecutive year from 183,085 to 175,792. This fall of 7,293 students represents a 4 per cent decline. According to JCQ this ranks art and design GCSE as the subject with the fifth biggest decrease in candidate numbers.

The total number of candidates is the lowest recorded for art and design since results were published online by JCQ in 2000.*

Art and design GCSEs this year make up 3.2 per cent of the total number of GCSEs sat (all subjects). Again this is the lowest recorded since 2001 when figures were first reported online. In 2016 the percentage of the total was 3.5 per cent for art and design.

The cumulative percentage for grade C GCSEs awarded this year was 75.6 per cent, this compares to 75.9 per cent in 2016. There has been a 0.5 per cent increase in A*s awarded this year (9.4%). This compares to 8.9 per cent in 2016.

Gender and attainment
More than double the number of girls (117,949) than boys (57,843) sit art and design GCSE. Of the total number sat 67 per cent were girls and 33% were boys.

The cumulative percentage of female candidates achieving A*s this year is 11.6 per cent. This compares to 11.1 per cent in 2016, an increase in 0.5 per cent.

The cumulative percentage of male candidates achieving A*s this year is 4.9 per cent. This compares to 4.6 per cent in 2016, an increase of 0.3 per cent.

Disappointingly, the slightly bigger increase in girls achieving an A* compared to boys (0.5% V 0.3%), suggests that the gender attainment gap has not closed this year.

The gender gap – candidates taking art and design
As noted above, this year there has been a 4% decline in the number of both male and female candidates. The percentage decline in male art and design GCSE candidates (5.2%) compares unfavourably to the percentage fall in female art and design candidates (3.4%).

GCSE changes to reporting
This year we are noting changes to GCSE qualifications in England. Coursework and controlled assessment have been removed from most subjects, apart from practical subjects to include art and design.

Grading is moving from letters to a numerical 9-1 scale with grade 9 being equal to A* and grade 4 being equal to a low grade C. GCSE students receiving results in summer 2017 will be the first to receive results under this new system, but only in English literature, English language and maths. Other subjects, to include art and design, will move over to a numerical system over the next two years. Of note this year JCQ have reported cumulative percentages in two different ways: as A* to U (nine alphabetical grades) and as four different alphabetical/number A/7, C/4, G/1 and U.
Wales and Northern Ireland are retaining the alphabetical grading system.

NSEAD response
The Society is seriously concerned but unsurprised at the continued and significant decline in GCSE numbers for art and design in 2017. The evidence from The NSEAD Survey Report 2015-16 provided a stark warning of the direct effects of government policy on our subject, notably the implications of the EBacc and the choices available for young people at level 2.

The continued fall in art and design GCSE candidate numbers, the lowest total number recorded by JCQ online, confirm the Society’s findings. We will continue to challenge the policies and barriers to both engagement and attainment in art and design in this context.

The Society will be communicating directly with the Secretary of State and Minister of State for Education about the predicted and continued decline in take up in art and design. The Society will also continue to implement strategies to overcome the gender divide in candidate uptake.

Visit JQC website for results and trends 2017

*JCQ have confirmed that in 1997 there were 221,763 art and design candidates, representing 4.1% of all GCSE sat. These figures are supplied by JCQ (but are not recorded online). Art and design GCSEs in 2017 made up just 3.2 per cent of the total number of GCSEs sat; 175,792 sat art and design in 2017, a 21% decrease since 1997.

24 Aug 2017