The Message- EBacc curriculum is not appropriate for all

Following the announcement by Nick Gibb MP ,  the minister of state for school reform, on 11 June, that the government was committed to honouring its manifesto pledge to require pupils to study the EBacc,  SSAT (the Schools, Students and Teachers Network) – the country’s largest schools’ membership network, launched a survey for school leaders. The intention was to build a rapid and representative picture of the positions being adopted by school leaders their responses to the requirement for this academic EBacc curriculum for all.

SSAT’s survey received 1500 responses in the first three days.(unusually high for this type of survey) The total number received when the survey closed, soon after that, was 1664.

The survey found ‘an overwhelming feeling that the EBacc curriculum is not appropriate for all. Pupils with lower prior attainment, those newly arrived to the country, and some with poor literacy, were cited as being ‘set up to fail’ if forced to study a language and a humanity at GCSE. Many practitioners worried that this could distract students from the core curriculum of English, maths and science and limit the opportunity for these students to undertake rigorous vocational and technical courses.’

The arresting headline message is the number of respondents prepared to refuse to teach EBacc for all, even if that meant a ceiling of Ofsted ‘good’ for their schools.

Only 17% of respondents said they would make the EBacc compulsory if that were a requirement for an ‘outstanding’ judgement from Ofsted, while 42% were certain that they would not.

But ,it was also the case, that some respondents felt that the policy would be beneficial for some pupils, especially middle and high attainers who might not otherwise have picked academic subjects.

A number of mainly Arts organisations have expressed the view that a focus on the EBacc will pose a threat to non-EBacc subjects. There is a feeling that in championing a more robust curriculum (a worthy aim) the government could be  in danger of communicating the perception that they don’t value  vocational education, the arts and the technologies.

The SSAT believes that as many pupils as possible, on the basis of aptitude, interest, opportunity and ability, should be encouraged to study the EBacc subjects. But adds that  ‘schools should be empowered to deploy their professional judgement in deciding the nature of their own curriculum requirements and pathways.’  It says that ‘Schools should not be penalised for allowing pupils to follow curriculum pathways other than the EBacc. A school can be ‘outstanding’ without all pupils studying a particular selection of subjects.’

There is also the rather knotty issue of academy freedoms. Wasnt one of the most important defining freedoms given to academies, at the outset, that of opting out of the national curriculum? Being forced to teach the Ebacc is now self-evidently profoundly limiting their freedom and flexibility to decide their own curriculum, which in turn could  negatively impact student outcomes. Or am I missing something?


Link to Survey Results





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