The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) has been around for a few years now. It is not a qualification in itself but a benchmark to demonstrate that students have mastered a wide range of academic subjects to a least a C grade at GCSE. To attain the EBacc students need to pass the following GCSEs:
Two Science subjects
History or Geography
A Modern Foreign Language
Schools were encouraged by the Government to enter more students for EBacc subjects; to do otherwise, we were told, would be to do them a disservice because their chances of getting into the best universities and of securing the best jobs would suffer if they did not qualify in the more rigorous and aspirational disciplines.
However, the EBacc was not compulsory. There was a broad understanding that it was not suitable for all students. Years of personalisation and flexible curriculum pathways had shown us that a critical tool in engaging learners was an accessible, appropriate and individualised (as far as possible) curriculum.
And it seemed that the government agreed. At Woodcote we have taken a sensible approach to this and insisted that the top 60% of students take all of these qualifications. Of course other students could opt in to them if they wished but we didn’t make it compulsory. Our thinking was; if we imposed the study of French on a statemented EAL student, they may conscientiously spend so much time trying to master the necessary skills and content for French GCSE that their other studies would suffer.
This approach has paid off and in 2014 50% of our students achieved the EBacc. This is way over the national average and amongst the top performing schools in Croydon.
However things are changing:
“We will require secondary school pupils to take GCSEs in English,
maths, science, a language and history or geography, with Ofsted
unable to award its highest ratings to schools that refuse to teach
these core subjects.”
Conservative Manifesto, 2015
Bill Watkin, a prominent educationalist said recently that:
“Earlier this year, there seemed to be an understanding that curriculum and qualifications were not best served by a one size fits all approach. Not everyone can or should go to a Russell Group university. Not everyone can or should pursue academic studies. If that were to happen, the lack of variety in workplace skills and opportunities, everyone knew, would result in social and economic meltdown in no time.
And if all pupils were to be pushed along a single (EBacc) curriculum pathway, the inevitable consequence would be heightened disaffection and disengagement among less academic learners. But we were ok. Schools were told that they only had to enter students for EBacc subjects, “where appropriate”
But now it’s EBacc for all!
A move to raise standards and prevent dumbing down?
Or a way of setting up less academic students to fail and become demotivated?
What do you think?