EBacc overview

EBacc overview

The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) was first announced on 6th September 2010 by the Secretary of State for Education. Further details were released through the Schools White Paper of November 2010.

The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) is a performance measure, not a qualification, for schools in England. It was first applied in the 2010 school performance tables.

The Conservative manifesto for the 2015 General Election proposed that the English Baccalaureate be made a requirement for all state schools in England. The manifesto said:

'We will require secondary school pupils to take GCSEs in English, maths, science, a language and history or geography, with Ofsted unable to award its highest ratings to schools that refuse to teach these core subjects.'

The EBacc is now part of the Government's 'drive for educational excellence everywhere'

What is it?

The EBacc measures the achievement of pupils who have gained Key Stage 4 qualifications.It recognises the success of those young people who attain GCSEs – or accredited versions of established iGCSEs – at grades A*to C across a core of academic subjects:

English, mathematics, geography or history, the sciences, and a language. To fulfil the EBacc, a pupil needs A* to C in English, mathematics, two sciences, a humanities and a language.

To achieve the science element of EBacc, pupils need to achieve A* to C in core and additional science or be examined in three out of four subjects – namely biology, chemistry, physics and computer science – and achieve A* to C in two of these subjects (computer science has recently been added to this list).

Qualifications counting towards Ebacc can be viewed here.

Why was it introduced?

The rationale for the introduction of the EBacc measure was that expansion of qualification options, coupled with the 'equivalence' attached to different qualifications for performance measurement, had served to distract some schools from offering options based on the value of the qualifications for progression to further study and work. Ministers believed that in some schools there was 'gaming' taking place. In other words, some schools were entering pupils for qualifications perceived as easier and less robust; not necessarily in the interest of those pupils, but in order to secure league table positions for their schools.

Ministers had also been concerned about the decline in the offer of some core subjects in key stage 4.For example, pupil GCSE entries in modern foreign language (MFL), history and science GCSEs had been falling sharply in recent years. Around three quarters of pupils attempted an MFL in 2002; by 2010 this figure had dropped to just over 43 per cent. Entries had been falling in French and German, and the number of pupils entered for history and geography GCSE had also been declining. The Government introduced the EBacc to halt and reverse the falls in these subjects.

How does the Ebacc relate to Progess 8?

The EBacc measure is continuing to be reported with the new Progress 8 in place. New performance measures look at a pupils' best eight GCSE grades, but at least five must be in these EBacc subjects. Many schools are now focusing pupils on them in order to gain a maximum score.

Progress 8 was introduced for all schools during 2016 (based on 2016 exam results, with the Progress 8 score showing in performance tables published in late 2016/early 2017). It is designed to encourage schools to offer a broad and balanced curriculum at KS4, and reward schools for the teaching of all their pupils. The new measure is based on pupils' progress measured across eight subjects: English; mathematics; three other English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects (sciences, computer science, geography, history and languages); and three further subjects, which can be from the range of EBacc subjects, or can be any other approved, high-value, arts, academic, or vocational qualification. From 2016 onwards, the floor standard will be based on schools' results on the Progress 8 measure.

Alongside the EBacc and Progress 8, is the Attainment 8 measure – which shows pupils' average achievement in the same suite of subjects as the Progress 8 measure, in addition to the percentage of pupils achieving a C grade or higher in both English (either Language or Literature) and mathematics.

In Brief: headline measures of performance

Attainment 8: pupils' average achievement in the same suite of subjects as the Progress 8 measure.

English and mathematics: percentage of pupils achieving a C grade or higher in both English (either Language or Literature) and mathematics.

The EBacc: percentage of pupils achieving good grades across a range of academic subjects.

90% Challenge

On 3rd November 2015, in a speech to the think-tank Policy Exchange the then Education Secretary Nicky Morgan announced a consultation setting out the aim that at least 90% of pupils in mainstream secondary schools should be entered for the EBacc, and sought views on implementation. The consultation was open until 29 January 2016. The results of it have not been published as yet.

In July 2016, the Sutton Trust published Changing the Subject, a briefing on how the EBacc and Attainment 8 reforms were changing results. It found that:

'Although our evidence demonstrates that schools have successfully moved towards an EBacc aligned curriculum, our survey of headteachers confirms that delivering the EBacc to 90% of students is beyond the reach of many schools given specialist teacher shortages. Moreover, these headteachers believe that it is not appropriate for many students.'

Issues of Concern

Some heads, teachers, subject specialists and professional bodies are concerned that the Ebacc measure unduly narrows the curriculum base and damages the take up of a range of subjects that are not included in the Ebacc measure. This is particularly the case for Arts subjects. There is also a worry that teachers will not train for these subject specialisms as they are not included in the performance measures.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb has frequently acknowledged these concerns, but believes they are unwarranted. He said in July 2016"We have seen a dip in provisional arts entries this year, but since the EBacc was first introduced the proportion of pupils in state-funded schools taking at least one GCSE in an arts subject has increased, rising from 46% in 2011 to 50% in 2015" He also pointed out that Arts subjects feature prominently in most schools' extra-curricular activities.

The latest GCSE (2016) results provide the most up to date information on this. This year's GCSE results (August 2016) reveal a significant fall in entries for art, music and drama, withDesign and technology experiencing the biggest drop.

Design and technology was down by 9.5 per cent (to 185,279) and performing arts fell 9.4 per cent (to 18,676). There were also big drops in art and design (5.9 per cent to 183,085), drama (4.7 per cent to 72,286) and music (4.6 per cent to 45,990). There were rises in geography (up 15,958 to 260,521), history (up by 13,481) and in biology, physics, chemistry and computing.

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