Creative Arts: designing and delivering greater diversity in our qualifications

Published: Friday 12 Nov 2021

In the second in our series of blogs looking at equality, diversity and inclusion in our qualifications, our Head of Curriculum for Creative Arts, Sandra Allan, explains how we’re bringing about greater diversity in Art and Design, Dance, Drama, Media and Music.

We know we can’t create a more inclusive curriculum all by ourselves – so we’ve brought together a community of Art and Design, Dance, Drama, Media Studies and Music Subject Associations, Higher Education, teachers, practitioners, expert advisers, subject specialists and industry.

Two key themes have emerged from our conversations. First, the set texts, artists, musicians or products that we require students to study and how we need to make these more representative of the world we live in.

The second key theme is Non-Exam Assessment (NEA) where students have free choice to choose an artist, performer, play, topic, product or music genre. We want to support teachers and students in selecting a more diverse range of starting points and inspiration - and give them the confidence to teach and study them.

Here’s what we’re doing to address those two important themes in our qualifications:

Art and Design

The flexibility of our specifications allows students to focus on any area of personal interest - and teachers can create courses that play to their school or college's strengths. The specifications give freedom to teach Art and Design in ways that inspire and bring out the best in all students and we need to support teachers in encouraging and embracing equality, diversity and inclusion.

The GCSE and A-level Art and Design Externally Set Assignments include reference to a large number of artistic sources. Across each paper it’s important these sources include an appropriate range in terms of: the areas of study defined in the specifications; a mix of historical and contemporary sources; gender balance and ethnically diverse sources.

For example, we now require all our writers to specify, for each starting point created, both the number of female artists and the number of sources that are non-white and/or non-Western. This is to support teachers and students to consider the importance of diversity when researching artists.


We’ve reviewed our qualifications with a particular focus on the current set texts at GCSE and A-level, the A-level prescribed practitioner lists and how to teach the NEA components.

As a result, we’ll soon be announcing some exciting changes to our Drama qualifications.


Our GCSE is the only dance qualification where it’s compulsory to study dance works by disabled and wheelchair performers and we have a full adaptation process to ensure any student can access Dance.

We want to overcome any gender disparities and make the subject more appealing to boys and we’ll soon be releasing a video resource to promote Dance to boys.

We’re also working to improve the diversity of our NEA performance and choreography components and how we can support teachers in teaching a more diverse range of dance from different cultures.


Media studies is a contemporary and interactive subject and its content is constantly changing and evolving.

We’ve focused our initial review on our Close Study Products that are released two years in advance of the exam. We’ve updated these to include a more diverse range of topics. For example, students can now study Marcus Rashford MBE and his use of social media as a way of influencing and engaging, and also learn more about the social and race issues he raises.

Other new additions include Blackpink - one of the most successful K-Pop bands in the world.

We’ll soon be announcing some exciting changes to our A-level qualification.


Our discussions so far have centred around the GCSE and A-level Music subject content and how the compulsory area of study - Western Classical Tradition between 1650 and 1910 - and the other optional areas of study could cover a more diverse range of musicians and genres and be more reflective of our culture today.

We’re now working with our stakeholders to make this happen both now and at the next round of reform. We’re also looking at our NEA performance and composition components and how we can support teachers in delivering a more diverse range of music including grime, DJing and technology.

Finally, we’re exploring how we can ensure students experience multiple genres of music from a variety of cultures and give them the opportunity to interrogate the context of these pieces of music.

Blog series

Read the first in our series of blogs – History: hearing more diverse voices from the past.

See all updates