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Is the 90% E-Bacc Target Being Rethought? #ThursdayThunk

Old commitments are being forgotten or amended whilst other policies are being introduced on a personal whim; such are the vagaries of education policy making and re-making.  The latest rumours suggest the 90% commitment to the E-Bacc may be changing.

Photo Credit: Gian Luigi Perrella via Flickr cc

What seems like years after the E-Bacc consultation closed an announcement may be nigh; the 90% E-Bacc target may be slipping into the future.  A lack of modern foreign language teachers could be at the root of the potential change.  There are some opportunities opening up for Justine Greening MP and the Department for Education, if they wish to take them.

The E-Bacc has done little to change school’s curriculum policy and students’ options compared to Progress 8; if you want more pupils studying the E-Bacc subjects Progress 8 is the lever to pull.  It’s also a very helpful “get out of jail card” for the Secretary of State who must sense the flak about to be fired at her due to the creation of new grammar schools, in the coming years.

Imagine a headline that reads “90% of Students Must Attain Grades in Three or More E-Bacc Subjects by 2020”.  The headline still has the magical but spurious 90% target and the word “E-Bacc” in it; students are required to attain a grade rather than just be entered for a subject and the curriculum and personal flexibility it gives, with any three subjects from the E-Bacc suite, is considerable.  There is also the political benefit of the target potentially being hit ahead of the next election.

I’ve argued before that the exclusive and narrowing E-Bacc measure should be replaced with an inclusive Progress 5 measure; English, Maths and three E-Bacc subjects would be form an Attainment 5 on which progress was based.  It’s very easy to do as it is essentially a subset of the Progress 8 measure.  Better still contextualise P5.

The exclusivity of the E-Bacc will only increase in the years ahead as the reduced number of students getting a grade 5 as opposed to a grade C and the increased potential for one element to be missed will see the E-Bacc pass rate plummet.  There’s no possible recovery as comparable outcomes will mean we never have pass rates as high again.  Gaming around entry, that may well blight English Literature in the years ahead, is reduced.  The potential for students being entered for an examination with minimal teaching of the subject is limited if not removed; Progress 5 means that every pupil counts, every grade matters.

The E-Bacc was never going to suit every child; University Technology Colleges were given an opt out in the consultation, for very sensible reasons.  Given UTCs’ struggles to remain open and limited numbers an enhanced vocational and technical curriculum will need to be delivered by all schools; a flexible, appropriately sized academic core curriculum with additional options to meet students’ aspirations and interests is what is required.  With a target of 90% of students attaining grades in English, Maths and three E-Bacc subjects we may even exceed expectations.  It’s time for the E-Bacc to be placed in the long grass of past ambitions and personal preferences; then left there.

#ThursdayThunk is based on something I’ve been thinking about, discussing, working on or has been topical that week.  The thunk is designed to be bite sized and will deliberately be kept short.  It will take one small issue or an aspect of something much bigger.  The intention is for it to be read in two/three minutes as you’re busy running around at the end of the week or relaxing on your day off.



One thought on “Is the 90% E-Bacc Target Being Rethought? #ThursdayThunk

  1. I agree that the EBACC is proving unworkable but in perhaps an intended irony , if the government relaxes the EBACC requirement , many many schools may have to stick with it since they have made music , drama and art teachers redundant

    Posted by johnbloby | March 9, 2017, 8:39 pm

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