Calls for the government to back down on the EBacc are likely to increase following a decision by the Russell Group universities to scrap its list of so-called ‘facilitating subjects’ – those subjects allegedly most likely to ensure students entered universities.
EBacc – English Baccalaureate in full – is not, as might be supposed, a qualification like the respected International Baccalaureate. EBacc is not a certificate for pupils' benefit but a performance measure to judge schools. And the new Ofsted framework expects secondary schools to put EBacc subjects ‘at the heart of the curriculum’.
But prioritising certain subjects in this way downgrades others.
Schools minister Nick Gibb has constantly plugged the EBacc. But claims that EBacc is wholly positive have now been debunked, Schools Week reports.
The three quotes which turn out to be false are these:
1 ‘EBacc subjects are regarded as the subjects that keep the widest possible options open for young people.’ FACT: Before being scrapped, there had been a list of ‘facilitating’ subjects but the Russell Group said it had been ‘misinterpreted’. Pupils had never needed to do all of them, or even one, to gain acceptance into a prestigious university as the government had suggested*.
2 ‘Since 2011, the proportion of pupils in state-funded schools taking at least one arts subject has increased.’ FACT: Far from increasing, the proportion fell from 44.7% in 2011 to 44.3% in 2018.
3 ‘I don’t accept there has been a narrowing of the curriculum because of the EBacc.’ FACT: A DfE-commissioned study found schools with high EBacc entry rates had reduced timetable time for non-EBacc subjects by devising ‘more creative ways’ to cover them. These included such innovations as after-school lessons for non-EBacc subjects, squashing them into tutor time or ‘intensive’ days. These diminished ways of teaching non-EBacc subjects are not high-quality provision – they're paying lip service.
*That's not to suggest subject choice isn't important. The Russell Group has launched its Informed Choices website to help young people have the exam information they need to make informed decisions.