Never mind the EBacc - the arts are already second class subjects

Tough on art, tough on the causes of art.

"When I hear the word culture I reach for my gun": Goering, the James Bond franchise, and now the UK government.

The new EBacc has left art and music out of its core curriculum, providing such a disincentive for these subjects that 27 per cent of schools have withdrawn related subjects from the curriculum, according to Ipsos Mori research.

A number of high profile figures in the arts expressed their concern to the Guardian. If the trend continues "we risk ending up with a two-tier system where arts are regarded as second-class subjects", Cultural Learning Alliance's Lizzie Crump told the Guardian.

Too late Lizzie Crump! The arts have been second class subjects for some time. In 2011, the postgrad places for trainee teachers were reduced by 220 places for art and 180 places for music. 206 arts companies lost their core funding last year, according to the 2011 spending review, and one in ten shut down as a result. And last week 117 jobs were cut at the Arts Council England, which has reduced internal costs by half. (It plans to cut a fifth of its workforce by July).

The way the trend is going, even if we can save art qualifications there'll be little use for them in a few years time. No wonder the Guardian's commenters are arguing for the arts on the basis of their psychological benefits, rather than their career prospects.

Shooting the arts in the face. Photograph: Getty Images

Martha Gill writes the weekly Irrational Animals column. You can follow her on Twitter here: @Martha_Gill.

Photo: Getty
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The Brexiteers have lost battles but they are still set to win the war

The prospect of the UK avoiding Brexit, or even a “hard” version, remains doubtful. 

Before the general election, the Brexiteers would boast that everything had gone their way. Parliament had voted to trigger Article 50 by a majority of 372. The Treasury-forecast recession hadn't occurred. And polls showed the public backing Brexit by a comfortable margin

But since the Conservatives' electoral humbling, the Leavers have been forced to retreat on multiple fronts. After promising in May that the dispute over the timetable for the Brexit talks would be "the fight of the summer", David Davis capitulated on the first day.

The UK will be forced to settle matters such as EU citizens' rights, the Irish border and the divorce bill before discussions begin on a future relationship. Having previously insisted that a new trade deal could agreed by 29 March 2019 (Britain's scheduled departure date), the Brexiteers have now conceded that this is, in Liam Fox's words, "optimistic" (translation: deluded). 

That means the transitional arrangement the Leavers once resisted is now regarded as inevitable. After the eradication of the Conservatives' majority, the insistence that "no deal is better than a bad deal" is no longer credible. No deal would mean the immediate return of a hard Northern Irish border (to the consternation of the Tories' partners the DUP) and, in a hung parliament, there are no longer the votes required to pursue a radical deregulatory, free market agenda (for the purpose of undercutting the EU). As importantly for the Conservatives, an apocalyptic exit could pave the way for a Jeremy Corbyn premiership (a figure they previously regarded as irretrievably doomed). 

Philip Hammond, emboldened by the humiliation of the Prime Minister who planned to sack him, has today outlined an alternative. After formally departing the EU in 2019, Britain will continue to abide by the rules of the single market and the customs union: the acceptance of free movement, European legal supremacy, continued budget contributions and a prohibition on independent trade deals. Faced with the obstacles described above, even hard Brexiteers such as Liam Fox and Michael Gove have recognised that the game is up.

But though they have lost battles, the Leavers are still set to win the war. There is no parliamentary majority for a second referendum (with the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats still enfeebled), Hammond has conceded that any transitional arrangement would end by June 2022 (the scheduled date of the next election) and most MPs are prepared to accept single market withdrawal. The prospect of Britain avoiding Brexit, or even a "hard" version, remains doubtful. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.