Schoolzone blog: EBacc to the future

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30 Jan 2015

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The DfE trumpets a 90,000 pupil increase in students "taking" EBacc over the past four years. We've just been looking at the EBacc performance in a little more detail to see what this means.

First, the increase in numbers represents:

  • schools imposing more restrictions on GCSE options (as they told us in our consultations last year)
  • a decline in entries for other (perhaps more suitable, for some students) qualifications, such as BTECs
  • good news - hopefully - for history, geography and languages.

It's an increase in the number of students taking the EBacc suite of 74% overall, but in state schools, only a 60% increase according to the DfE press release (15.1% - 24.2%) - this suggests that if the increase is driven by schools wanting to do better in the EBacc league, independent schools are taking it more seriously. Presumably this is caused by schools who did manage to see the writing on the wall - see previous posts here and here - and switched from IGCSEs to GCSEs during this four year period.

However, independent schools performed less well than state schools in EBacc, even though they mostly have selective intakes.

  • State school pupils achieving EBacc: 24.2%
  • All school pupils achieving EBacc: 22.9%

So, the numbers of students in (selective) independent schools taking EBacc has gone up, but the performance of these schools has gone down. Does this suggest that EBacc subjects are "better quality" than others, as the DfE suggests?

This is the first year that state schools have outperformed independents in EBacc, presumably because state schools take it more seriously as a basis for comparison and have done more to steer students towards EBacc subjects during the past four years - the proportions have changed little in independent schools during this same period.

Whether state schools will continue to outperform independents in EBacc in the future is difficult to say, given the current IGCSE situation, but it will probably be fairly insignificant when Progress Eight kicks in. Read our guide to how to win at P8 here.


Meanwhile, as a result of other changes, the 5 A*-to-C-grade measure of school performance has fallen across all types of school. GCSE results have fallen by:

  • 5.8% for all schools - from 59.2% in 2012 to 2013 to 53.4% in 2013 to 2014
  • 4% in state schools - from 60.6% to 56.6%

The difference in performance between state and independent seems to be down to the fact that not all independent schools have given up the IGCSE yet, so they have suffered most in this year's IGCSE-free league tables.


PS It's a small point but nobody "takes" the EBacc. Students take GCSEs, some of which are covered by EBacc. It's a point worth making because students are largely unaware of it - it's not as if they are deliberately taking it because of its inherent value.

Thanks to Nick for image - obviously we don't give him enough numbers to crunch...




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