English Baccalaureate exam reform dismissed as ‘narrow vision of education’

16:07 04 February 2013

Education secretary Michael Gove announced the government's English Baccalaureate plans last year. Picture: PA.

Education secretary Michael Gove announced the government's English Baccalaureate plans last year. Picture: PA.

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Secondary schools across Camden, Haringey and Barnet are resisting government plans for English Baccalaureate exams to replace GCSEs - which a leading teaching union has labelled a “narrow vision of education”.

The Department for Education (DfE) published national A-level and GCSE results for 2012 two weeks ago which included the percentage of pupils at each school reaching the government’s proposed English Baccalaureate (EBacc) benchmark.

The DfE plans to introduce the EBacc exam as a replacement for GCSEs from 2017 but last month’s results show very few schools have embraced the plans.

In Camden, only 18 per cent of pupils achieved grades A* to C in English, mathematics, two sciences, a foreign language and history or geography at GCSE last year – the combination of subjects needed to achieve the EBacc.

Andrew Baisley, Camden NUT’s branch secretary, said: “I think a lot of schools haven’t bought into it because it’s such a narrow vision of education. Art subjects aren’t recognised by EBacc.

“Take a school like Acland Burghley which has a really superb arts department but that isn’t recognised by the EBacc.

“I think the arts are very important and I’m sure a lot of Camden parents think the arts are important. I know that the headteachers of Camden are strongly opposed.”

In Haringey 15 per cent of pupils met the EBacc requirements in 2012.

Julie Davies, NUT branch secretary, said: “A good school will ignore the EBacc and try to produce a varied and challenging curriculum that meets the needs of pupils. Schools are very unhappy about the dictatorial way in which Michael Gove is acting.”

In Barnet, Henrietta Barnett School, in Central Square, Hampstead Garden Suburb, bucked the trend with 89 per cent of pupils achieving the EBacc requirements last year.

But independent King Alfred School, in North End Road, Golders Green, saw 55 per cent of pupils meet the indicator.

Rod Jackson, deputy headteacher, said: “Our view is that while we are perfectly happy to support Michael Gove’s aim for education at GCSE level to be rigorous and meaningful, EBacc is the wrong way to achieve this aim.

“The best way to achieve this aim is to create a curriculum which is broad and deep, and not narrow.”

A DfE spokeswoman said: “We have been clear that the secondary education system is in desperate need of a thorough overhaul.

“That is why we are making major changes to ensure we have a world class education that raises standards. The vast majority of schools are now offering the English Baccalaureate, which recognises those subjects employers and universities value most.”

Haverstock School, in Haverstock Hill, Chalk Farm, will hold a consultation meeting for Camden parents about the EBacc on Monday, March 4.


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