Home > Education Policy, Exams, Teaching > To Ebacc, or not to Ebacc

To Ebacc, or not to Ebacc

This post was originally published on Labour Teachers, available here, on 25th June 2015.

My Geography teacher; the head of year 9; the head of year ten; the head of geography; two deputy heads; the head of maths and my form tutor. They’re the people I remember “having a conversation” with regarding my GCSE options, and more pertinently the fact I’d chosen wrong.

The school I attended had a two year key stage 4, as was the norm then, so it was the end of year 9 that we needed to pick our options in. The choice itself wasn’t massively wide. We had to do maths, English, double science, RE, A language (mine was Spanish) – and obviously we had to do core PE, although this wasn’t examined. This left room for three choices, one was technology- I’m led to believe technology was a legal requirement. I chose IT and electronics (2 short courses and I was told this was because IT didn’t count as a technology).

Then there were two option blocks. One had a limited number of subjects. History, Geography, IT and maybe a couple more. The other had these and all the other subjects one would expect. I chose history and music. The school encouraged all students (well the vast majority) to take either history or geography. Those deemed bright were supposed to take both. I was deemed bright.

I felt under a but of pressure from a few directions, and if I hadn’t had supportive parents and a supportive music teacher I may have folded. I’m glad I didn’t. I enjoyed my music GCSE, I studied it beyond GCSE and I found it as academically demanding as the others. I also set a precedent, I was the first male for years to take music but that increased quickly.

What’s this got to do with Ebacc?

I’m not sure, I know when reading Nicky Morgan’s comments today I felt a little annoyed, having been in the situation described above. However, I do feel that the Ebac ensures that all learners have access to a good broad grounding. I’m glad I did music, but I’m equally glad I did the others as well.

I worry that the focus shifting as it is will see subjects like music and art shoved a side and that would be a tragedy. I like the curriculum model Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher) has shared recently, as it offers a good grounding which includes something creative.

What about Vocational Education?

For too long we’ve got vocational education wrong. The rise of GCSE equivalent qualifications meant that learners could in fact walk away with a bagful of “GCSE equivalents” but arrive in the post school world to discover they are anything but. The Ebac and other recent changes have been positive in that respect, but they seem write off Vocational Education completely. Which is a shame as the idea is sound, we’ve just got it wrong for a long time.

So, what are you saying?

I think the Ebacc is nice in theory, but there are potentially worrying side affects for creative subjects. I also think that all the policy at the moment is patching up holes, instead of sorting out the structural damage.

I like Tristram Hunt’s recent ideas regarding scrapping GCSEs and implementing a baccalaureate system that has two truly equivalent qualifications, one academic and one vocational, or technical. This is an idea that seems to be backed by John Cridland of CBI and could link in to changes on HE too, with technical degrees being introduced to increase the expertise in manufacturing.

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