I asked this question on Facebook and twitter. This is one reply I've received:
"The SLT at my school is trying, I think, to be supportive of the arts, but they seem to see this as some sort of largesse on their behalf. Several important changes have occurred that have a real impact on the uptake and provision of arts subjects at GCSE.
1. It's all based on the Progress 8 'bucket' system. Buckets 1 and 2 have all the EBACC subjects in and Bucket 3 the rest, which are clearly seen as fripperies or adjuncts. Realistically, this means that the majority of students can only choose ONE subject from the third bucket - PE, art, music, drama, dance, design technology, food technology, etc. This is obviously very restrictive.
2. Many students are 'encouraged' to take extra EBACC subjects instead of an arts subject from Bucket 3, because this gives them more opportunities to meet the EBACC requirements, i.e. If they fail history, for example, they have geography to fall back on, rather than music, which doesn't count.
3. By 'encouraged' I mean coerced. They have been withdrawn from lessons for one-to-one meetings, where they have been told, for example, that they won't get into uni if they have a drama GCSE, and that universities require them to have an EBACC. (Not true.)
4. Students will start their GCSEs in arts subjects in year 9, completing them in year 10. This is, I think, an admirable attempt to ensure we keep a broad (ish) curriculum, but it does of course mean that all students get one year less studying these subjects, and that they take their exams when they are younger and less likely to achieve high marks, thus further devaluing the qualification.
5. On top of this, the new GCSE specifications mean that a lot of subjects are now more theoretical than practical, e.g. Both drama and PE GCSEs will be assessed with a 30% practical/70% theoretical split. This is obviously part of the same ideological assault on practical subjects, adding to the assumption that only one type of learning is valid/valued. "