English Baccalaureate plans

16 November 2015

On 3 November Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education, made a speech outlining the plans for the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) which Nick Gibb, Minister of State for Schools, trailed in the summer. She also announced the opening of a consultation about how the plans will be implemented.

What are the proposals?

The current proposals include:

  • 90% of pupils in mainstream secondary schools will enter the EBacc
  • Schools will have to report as a headline measure:
    • number of pupils entering the EBacc
    • average EBacc point score
  • EBacc will take 'a more prominent role' in Ofsted assessment. 

The additional headline accountability measures proposed will mean that schools are judged on their EBacc results four different times, as well as by Ofsted, as the EBacc is already embedded in Progress 8 and Attainment 8 (here's our quick guide on how these existing measures work). 

The consultation document itself begins by setting out the rationale and arguments for the EBacc. It includes all the supporting information that we have grown accustomed to. It argues that:

  • a focus on the EBacc subjects is about social justice as it ensures that all children from all backgrounds get access to them.  It does not acknowledge that every child needs the skills, knowledge and understanding associated with the arts and it doesn’t recognise the arts as synonymous with achievement
  • the uptake of arts GCSEs has gone up (in this case they are stating that it’s the percentage of learners who are taking at least one Arts Subject)
  • the EBacc subjects are the best route to University (The Russell Group ‘facilitating subjects’ list is still being used as a justification for the EBacc rationale). 

What should we take note of?

  1. This is not a consultation about whether or not we should have an EBacc - it's a consultation about it's implementation (see this blog from the RSA for more on this)
  2. There is some open acknowledgement in the consultation paper that schools are delivering GCSEs over 3 years which we know has a knock-on impact on the time for the statutory KS3 Arts allocation. This is a real issue for our sector as without a broad and balanced grounding in the arts at Key Stage 3 young people will not have the skills, knowledge, understanding or motivation to progress to GCSE
  3. This consultation acknowledges that the EBacc implementation target of 90% of students will have significant impact on teacher recruitment in the EBacc subjects - but doesn’t address the knock on effect that this will have on recruitment of other subjects
  4. The Conservative Manifesto pledge that Ebacc will be linked to Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ has been softened slightly from a 'limiting judgement' to 'prominence'.

Responding to the consultation

The CLA is currently working on our response to the consulation alongside our colleagues, and we'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas on the best way to proceed. You can read the document here and the process closes on the 29 January 2016. As always, it's really important that the cultural learning world engages with this issue and that the DfE hears our opinions.

Our initial thoughts are that our response will be strongest if we:

  • try and answer a the questions directly (even though they don't address the wider EBacc issues)
  • make a really strong economic and achievement focussed argument for how the arts impact children progressing to HE and employment (see our Key Findings for useful stats)
  • ensure that we make the case that access to the arts is absolutely about social justice: the benefits, and social and cultural capital associated with the arts should not become the preserve of those who can afford them
  • highlight the effect of 3-year GCSE delivery on Key Stage 3 (with as much evidence as possible)
  • highlight the recent falls in arts teacher numbers and teaching hours in schools
  • talk about the strength of a school’s cultural offer being an essential draw for teacher recruitment and retention 
  • make the point that increased headline accountability measures for EBacc are ‘needless bureaucracy’ - Progress 8 and Attainment 8 are sufficient.

If you have any evidence, numbers or arguments that we can use to illustrate and highlight the above, any thoughts on other routes or approaches we should take, or thoughts on ways we can boost and highlight the arguments you are making, please email and let us know. 

The Bacc for the Future campaign is also currently working on a response to this consultation and an associated campaign.