Whats the take up?

Latest DFE Research


The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) is not a qualification in itself, but it is the term applied to the achievement of GCSEs at grades ‘A*’-‘C’ across a core of academic subjects; English, maths, history or geography, the sciences and a language. Ipsos MORI was commissioned by the DfE to carry out research on the effects of the EBacc.

The EBacc was introduced as a measure in the 2010 school performance tables. The intention is to create an English Baccalaureate Certificate,  to replace GCSEs ,which will be a qualification.

This survey reinforces the perception that there is a considerable degree of confusion about what the EBacc actually is and what value it holds for pupils.  Some schools still see the EBacc purely as a measure of school performance which does not confer any benefits on pupils.

The proportion of Year 9 pupils in 2012 selecting a combination of subjects that could lead to them achieving the EBacc is statistically unchanged from 2011.  Just  under half (49%) of Year 9 pupils have taken GCSE subject combinations that  could lead to them achieving the EBacc this year, compared with 46% in 2011

The report says that although the change over time is not statistically significant, there is an upward trend in the uptake of each of the individual EBacc subjects and the EBacc  combination of subjects.   A smaller proportion of pupils attending schools with a relatively high proportion of FSM-eligible pupils have selected GCSE options that could result in them  achieving the EBacc

The qualitative case studies highlighted several factors affecting EBacc take-up.   Ultimately, the subjects that pupils perform well in and enjoy take precedence in GCSE selection.  Whilst in some cases these are EBacc subjects, for some pupils  this is not the case.

Teachers in some schools say languages are a ‘sticking point’ in pupils’ selection   of EBacc subjects, as pupils often perceive the languages to be difficult, not  relevant or not enjoyableThe  tipping point subject seems to be languages, not popular with many pupils but now with numbers taking some language creeping up to over 50%.

Most schools (89%) say that their option blocks allow pupils who want to study towards the EBacc to do so.  However, both the quantitative survey and qualitative research found that schools do not encourage EBacc up-take for every pupil.  Pupil attainment is largely the determining factor in this decision.  Schools tend to feel that pupils should focus on subjects where they will earn higher  grades and for lower attaining pupils this may not be EBacc subjects. In some  instances this is because schools do not want to jeopardise other performance  measures by encouraging pupils to take EBacc subjects if they will find them  challenging.

The biggest surge has been in numbers taking double or triple science, 59% and 34% respectively although science options are the ones most likely to be made compulsory in schools. There have also been increases in the numbers taking history and geography On the down side, some subjects have had to give up time, space or even teachers to make way for EBacc subjects. The exclusion of RE remains a big bugbear for many (and there is aggressive lobbying to include RE in the Ebaccc) but equally the dropping in some schools of creative, technical and vocational options (a 23% drop in the number of schools offering drama and performing arts for instance) continues to raise real concerns about the nature of the curriculum offer for some pupils.

The report says

‘There have also been changes in education policy and practice in addition to the  EBacc that schools see as influencing GCSE choices; most notable has been the  changes in vocational qualifications and other non-GCSE qualifications. “It’s not just the EBacc pressures that we’ve had, it’s [also]changes to  vocational education and the uncertainty around that and it’s had a major  impact on what we offer at the moment.”

(Deputy Headteacher, School 5)

“We haven’t dropped [vocational courses] because of the EBacc  specifically, we’ve dropped them because they’re not worth four GCSEs  anymore, so, I think, you know, I think the OCR National we dropped, and  a good deal of the science bottom sets.”

(Teacher, School 11)’

It terms of information being provided by schools on the Ebacc, the report said

‘The vast majority of schools are providing information about the EBacc; over nine  in ten schools say they have given pupils (93%) and/or parents (94%) advice or  information regarding the EBacc.  This is supported by qualitative case study findings, where parents describe receiving a significant amount of advice and information regarding GCSE choices and the EBacc. Both the quantitative and qualitative findings indicate that generally more has been done to increase awareness of the EBacc in schools where take-up tends to be lower.

The messages that schools give around the EBacc vary.  In the qualitative case studies some schools were providing relatively neutral advice to pupils, which  mainly involved informing them what the EBacc was.  This approach was more evident in schools where many pupils would be doing the EBacc naturally.  In contrast, other schools actively encouraged pupils they identified as academically capable to select the EBacc subjects; these schools often highlighted the potential  importance of the EBacc to their pupils.

The effects of the  English Baccalaureate Helen Greevy, Anastasia Knox, Fay Nunney & Julia Pye Ipsos MORI


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