The English Baccalaureate – and the prospect of Building a Better Bac

At school leaders’ conferences I have been struck by the extent to which the EBac is dominating planning, both long and short term. The message from Michael Gove about greater curriculum freedom has been swamped by the fears of the EBac and how it might be used in future. Some year 11 students are even being put through history GCSE after school in order to give them a chance of an EBac certificate. Some freedom!

Apart from the obvious worry about the school’s position in an EBac league table, leaders are concerned that individual students may be disadvantaged by not having an EBac when they apply for university in four or five years’ time.

The fact that selective universities have no track record of asking for composite qualifications, such as the EBac, and are interested in the student’s performance in individual subjects, does not seem to allay the fears. Even when selective universities ask for a certain number of points from students doing the International Baccalaureate (IB), they still demand specific requirements in individual subjects.

Fear is all – and is destined to dominate curriculum planning at the very time when government ministers have repeatedly stated that they will offer more curriculum freedom and school leaders were looking forward to becoming curriculum planners again.

At least the IB is a proper baccalaureate, as is the successful Welsh Bac, whereas the EBac is nothing more than an accountability measure and, as such, should be ignored by universities, which have their eye on higher matters, such as intellectual quality.

It is disappointing to see the SSAT offering courses on how to jump through the EBac hoop – how to get better results in history and geography, how to get more students studying languages, etc. A sad compliance to a measure that ought to be opposed tooth and nail.

As chair of Whole Education, I am personally delighted that WE is working with ASCL, the Curriculum Foundation and the Independent Academies Association to Build a Better Bac, as our campaign is called.

We shall be giving evidence to the Select Committee’s brief inquiry on the EBac.

Watch this space.