Schoolzone blog: EBacc for the future?

EBacc for the future?


30 July 2015

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When the Progress Eight measure was introduced under the last government, it seemed to subsume the EBacc, but then the new government decided that it should be, in effect, compulsory. We reported in a previous post that schools don't seem likely to respond to the pressure on them to force all students to take EBacc subjects by 2020, but where does that leave EBacc?

First, let's recap what EBacc...

It's not a qualification in its own right (Gove had wanted it to be, but never managed to get this reform through), but is a way of measuring school performance against a range of subjects (.xls) which:

  • enable progression to relevant A level subject(s)
  • are graded in the same way as GCSEs (currently A* to C for level 2, D to G
    for level 1).

Pupils achieve grades that count towards the school's EBacc score if:

  • In English: Language only counts if they also get any grade in Literature
  • In science: they get A* to C in Double Award/Core & Additional or in two out of three separate sciences (B,C,P)
  • In computing: last year only if it was from AQA or OCR, but from 2015 in Pearson Edexcel or WJEC as well
  • In humanities or languages: it's less complicated, but note that, while RE isn't part of EBacc, it is compulsory.

However, EBacc hasn't had much of an impact on schools: in Feb 2013, the DfE published a report which showed that there had been “no significant change” in the
proportion of Year 9 pupils who had chosen to take either the EBacc
combination of subjects, or each of the individual EBacc subjects, since
2011, and that few schools had made changes in response to the EBacc
with still fewer planning to do so. Recently, however, Nicky Morgan has claimed that 39% of pupils sat the EBacc in 2014, up from 22% taking those subjects in 2010 - though without citing the source of the data.

So back to the question of where all this leaves EBacc: the various reports mentioned above (and in schoolzone blogs passim) seem to suggest that EBacc isn't really achieving much to persuade schools to do much that they wouldn't be doing anyway. it marginalises other subjects and could put an insuperable demand on science, maths and language staffing. Not to mention that some students cannot access level 2 qualifications in any subject, especially the more rigorous EBacc subjects, which will continue to disincline schools towards full adoption.

So the Conservative's ambitions seem a bit pointless, especially in the context of all the other reforms to qualifications that are rolling out from September. Perhaps the consultation promised for the autumn will be EBacc's last hurrah.



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