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What is the EBacc?

The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) is an accountability measure in England. It measures the proportion of children who secure a grade 5 or above in English, Maths, Science, a humanity and language GCSE. Arts subjects are not included. 

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The EBacc subjects

  • English language and literature
  • maths
  • the sciences
  • geography or history
  • a language

To achieve the EBacc students must study at least seven GCSEs in the five areas: English language, English literature, maths, double science or biology, chemistry and physics, history or geography and a language. 

Read more about the qualifying subjects on the DfE website.


The Department for Education (DfE) has sent a target of 75% of pupils entering the EBacc by 2022 and 90% by 2025.

A brief history of the English Baccalaureate

The Coalition Government introduced the concept of the English Baccalaureate in 2010. Schools were required to publish the number of students that achieved A-C grades across 5 subject areas at GCSE level: English, Maths, Science, Modern Foreign Languages and Humanities (History and Geography). These are generally known as the 5 Pillars of the English Baccalaureate.

Alongside this announcement the DfE also planned to develop EBacc qualifications in each of the five areas supplanting the existing GCSEs. After a sustained campaign this plan was abandoned in 2013.

This new league table was the first indication of the Department of Education’s policy to promote and increase the study of this combination of subjects. It believed they were essential to improving teaching and learning and young people’s life chances.

The initial introduction of the EBacc had an immediate and significant impact on what children studied at secondary school – an early poll from Ipsos Mori showed that 27% of schools cut courses as a direct result of its implementation. Historic analysis from the Cultural Learning Alliance in 2013 revealed that this disproportionately affected arts courses – especially for pupils in disadvantaged areas.

In 2013 plans for Attainment 8 and Progress 8 were announced, which included the EBacc within them. 

  • Attainment 8 – Pupils’ grades in their 8 highest GCSEs are combined to produce a number score. These 8 Best GCSEs must include their grades in Maths and English Language or English Literature GCSE. Maths and which ever of English Language or English Literature is higher is then double weighted. A further three of the 8 Best GCSEs need to be drawn from English Baccalaureate subjects. The final three slots can be any subject.
  • Progress 8 – Students’ progress from a baseline when entering secondary school and the results in their 8 Best GCSEs. Five of the GCSEs have to be in EBacc subjects. The remaining three can be from EBacc or non-EBacc subjects.

Sam Cairns, Co-Director, Cultural Learning Alliance