Think again about EBac, say MPs

The English Baccalaureate should not have been introduced before the National Curriculum Review was completed, according to a cross-party group of MPs.


In a report published today the Education Select Committee suggests that any new performance or curriculum measures affecting schools should only be implemented after proper consultation with key stakeholders and the wider public – something which didn’t happen with the EBac. The Committee says that the Government should also have waited until after the conclusion of the National Curriculum Review before introducing the EBac.


Nic Dakin, a member of the Committee said, ‘There is massive resentment from schools and business to the way in which the government has introduced the English Baccalaureate in such a top down way. The selection of subjects has caused great upset – particularly the decision to leave out religious studies and music. This really isn’t the way to go about curriculum change. I hope the government will listen to what we have to say in the report and learn for the future.’


The Chairman of the Committee, Graham Stuart MP, said: "We want the Government to deliver on its promise in the White Paper – The Importance of Teaching – to use performance tables to put greater emphasis on the progress of every child. We don’t think we are there yet and feel that, for now, the EBac is not part of a balanced score card. Instead it risks focusing schools on those children who are on the border line of achieving the EBac at the expense of others both below and above that threshold."


The report notes that "certain academic subjects studied at A-level are more valued by Russell Group universities than others", but argues that a "focus on a fairly narrow range of subjects, demanding considerable curriculum time, is likely to have negative consequences on the uptake of other subjects." The Committee does not make recommendations on which subjects should or should not be included – "that," argued Mr Stuart, "is not up to a group of politicians" – but rather encourages the Government to reconsider the EBac’s composition when the National Curriculum Review is concluded.


The Government, argues the Committee, should confirm "how it will monitor the attainment of children on free school meals in the EBac", as the evidence is unclear as to whether entering more such students for EBac subjects will work on its own. Similarly, the Committee calls for the Government to provide further international evidence to inform debate on the merits of the EBac: evidence the inquiry received did not suggest a link, in other countries, between the prescribed study of certain academic subjects and improved attainment and prospects for poorer students. Elsewhere, the report argues that the current arrangements for certification of the EBac should be shelved, as should calls for a Technical Baccalaureate to sit alongside the existing award.


"There is no question," concluded Mr Stuart, "that the Government’s motivation behind the EBac is right in several regards. Of course all children should have access to a broad and balanced curriculum – including traditional, academic subjects – and of course we should be working tirelessly to narrow the gap in attainment between the richest and poorest. But our inquiry uncovered significant concerns about the EBac’s composition, potentially negative as well as positive impact, and the way it was introduced. We received a huge amount of evidence and the Government needs to look at that very closely: indeed, if it had conducted a similar consultation, it might have avoided some of the concerns which have been expressed."

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