What’s it all about?


In the White Paper, The Importance of Teaching, published on 24 October 2010, the Secretary of State announced the introduction of the English Baccalaureate. Not to be confused in any  way, of course,  with the IB which is altogether different and a qualification in itself. This new group award  is to be used as an additional indicator in KS4 performance tables. The EBacc is not a new qualification . It will recognise students’ achievements across a core of selected  ‘academic’ subjects in getting good passes in rigorous GCSEs or iGCSEs. It has been introduced due to concerns that the number of students who currently receive a broad education in core academic subjects is far too small. This is particularly the case apparently  for students in disadvantaged areas.  Special recognition will be given in the performance tables to those schools which help their students attain this breadth of achievement and the achievement of individual students will be marked through a certificate.  The English Baccalaureate will recognise A* to C passes at GCSE or iGCSE in five subject areas; English, Maths, Science, Humanities and Languages.  Further details listing which qualifications will be counted for each subject are now available in a Statement of Intent 2010 Addendum notice, on the Department for Education’s website.

The 2010 Tables which should be published this month  will also, for the first time, show the proportion of pupils at school, local authority and national level achieving good GCSE grades (A*-C) in both English and maths. The Governments  intention is to include science in this ‘Basics indicator’ from next year.  So it seems the English Baccalaureate, which new league tables will measure, will encourage pupils to study the following core Academic subjects:

English, English Lit, Maths, Triple Science, History, Ancient History or Geography and a Modern (although the correct definition of that term is now up for debate) Foreign Language (Spanish, French, German, Italian, Hindi (as a second language), Welsh as First and Second language   and  Latin ,classical Greek  and Biblical Hebrew.

Note Cambridge International Certificate and  CIE legacy iGCSE options are  also  included –see web site

Pupils  can then pick one subject (yes just one it seems) from, for example,   the following (non academic?) GCSEs:

Applied Sciences,  Applied Ethics, Business Studies, Classical Civilisation, ICT, Sociology, Art, Drama, Music, Media Studies, RE, Engineering, Psychology, Health & Social Care, Law, Economics, Critical Thinking, Citizenship, Statistics, PE, Resistant Materials, Textiles, Technology, Graphic Design Catering, Food Tech ..etc

In fact, all of the GCSEs listed above have  some  academic rigour, but aren’t academic enough to be counted in Government plans it seems. The worry is some will simply disappear as  it will not make economic sense for exam boards to continue to offer them or indeed  for teachers to train for them .  How do you distinguish between Ancient History and Classical Civilisation ,  the former is in, the latter out. Is it because one is more academically rigorous than the other? Already religious leaders are lobbying hard for RE, which they argue is a humanity, to be included in the core EBacc.  Critics point out that  if last years results  are viewed through the new  EBacc lens  it would mean  just 15%  of pupils passed.  On the one hand, they point out,  Gove complained about how much was prescribed by the previous government and the need to reduce central prescription. On the other, he has made it  clear that schools will in future be judged solely on their success in this  specific combination of subjects, effectively prescribing them as the route  that all students must take. This also clearly impacts on Academies and Free schools  freedom to choose their curriculum too. Indeed given the above do schools actually have   much meaningful  freedom, when it comes to the curriculum?  On a positive note, it is good that the ICGSE qualification gets the recognition it merits. The nonsense  whereby fine schools  dropped  to the bottom of the  league tables because they entered pupils  for more demanding IGCSEs ( because the league tables didn’t recognise them) will  now end.  The Government plans to continue to include the current 5+ A*-C GCSEs measure, including equivalences, in the Performance Tables for the time being.

Some Heads  are angry the league tables are being reformed  in effect retrospectively, ranking schools on exams taken before the new  Ebacc measure was announced. The Guardian has found that some schools are radically changing their curriculum offer to fall in line with the Ebacc requirements. But others welcome the fact that it will flush out schools that have been gaming, in other words entering their pupils for soft options in order to inflate their schools league table position,  whether its  in  the interests of the children, or not.

The Government says that the Ebacc is  not compulsory and will not suit all children, but it is the effect it will  have on league tables that worries many Heads.


Under the new English Baccalaureate measure, according to the results released on 12 Jan – 15.6 per cent of pupils in England achieve an A* to C GCSE (or iGCSE) in English, mathematics, sciences, a modern or ancient language and history or geography


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