Government must ‘think again’ about pointless EBac

28 Jul

Commenting on the Education Committee's report on the English Baccalaureate and its call for the Government to "think again about EBac", General Secretary Philip Parkin said:

"The Committee is to be congratulated for its insight.

"However, I would go further and say that the misnamed 'English Baccalaureate' is narrow and pointless. Whether as a performance measure or an actual certificate of achievement, it has no point.

"The Government seems unsure about what the EBac is actually for. The promotion of a broad and balanced curriculum is a good thing but the EBac does not do that.

"I am quoted in the report as saying: '[The EBac's] name suggests that it is an actual programme of study like the challenging International Baccalaureate. Instead, if you've got some GCSEs, you will get another piece of paper to wrap the certificates in no extra work involved.' I am therefore delighted that the Committee concluded that: 'We do not believe the EBac the hybrid of a certificate and a performance measure, named after a qualification is appropriately labelled: it is not a baccalaureate, and as it stands the name can therefore be misleading to parents, professionals and pupils.'

"Is the Government trying to encourage a broader curriculum or recognise individual achievement? All it seems to be doing is increasing bureaucracy with an expensive, pointless, repetitious piece of paper that will not have any meaning for providers of further and higher education or employers.

A DfE spokesperson commented earlier this year that: 'The EBac represents a core that we think all schools should be making available to their pupils. We do, however, recognise that the full range of EBacc will not be suitable for all pupilsandthat is why we have not made it compulsory. We recognise the wider benefits that studying other subjects and qualifications can bring and we will encourage all pupils to studynon-English baccalaureate subjectsalongside the core English baccalaureate in order to get a well-rounded education.'

"Recently, however,Schools Minister Nick Gibb described them as'vital subjects' that would'increase the opportunities for all young people'. If you take a subject for which you have no aptitude or inclination, and do badly in it, how will that increase your opportunities for further education or training? The Committee points out that 'shoe-horning' pupils into subjects could be counter-productive.

"Under the Education Act 2002, the Secretary of State is required, in forming an opinion as to whether to implement any new project, to: 'have regard to the need for the curriculum for any school affected by the project to be a balanced and broadly based curriculum which promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of children and of society'.

"It is difficult to see how the EBacc meets this objective as it appears to be reducing a broad and balanced curriculum to five subject areas, and ignoring RE and many other important subjects in the process. Students who would like to take vocational or technical subjects, Religious Education or concentrate on a range of sciences, rather than a language, could miss out.

"Most pupils will find that their GCSE in ICT will be of more practical and economic use to them in the future than a GCSE in Ancient Greek, and yet it is the latter, rather than the former, which has been chosen for inclusion in the Bacc.

"It is also grossly unfair to hold a school to account for a target which has been applied retrospectively and could not possibly have been foreseen two and a half years ago when GCSE choices were being made.

"Rather than trying to force students to take the narrow and pointless EBac, the Government should look at how the whole assessment system could be transformed, with more teacher and ongoing assessment, a greater range and type of subjects on offer to inspire pupils and parity between the vocational and the academic."

The Report

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