Impending league table reforms could be “wasted” if Conservative plans to force every pupil to take the EBacc are realised.
This is the message from school leaders after education secretary Nicky Morgan revealed plans to effectively make the EBacc mandatory if the Conservatives win the next election.
The EBacc, which comprises A* to C GCSE passes in maths, English, a science, a language, and geography or history, is currently a league table measure that schools, if they choose, can ignore.
However, in an interview with the Telegraph last week, Ms Morgan said that there should be a “presumption” that all children should study the EBacc subjects.
The newspaper reported that the Conservative election manifesto would set out plans that see inspectors banned from giving a “good” or “outstanding” judgement to schools that do not enrol all pupils for these core EBacc GCSEs. Ms Morgan told the Telegraph: “These core academic subjects offer children great opportunities. They are what universities are looking for.”
However, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said that the plans would “supersede” existing league table reforms.
The new Progress 8 league table measure comes into effect in 2016 and will see schools judged for the progress pupils make across eight subjects, including core academic subjects but with some wider options as well.
Russell Hobby, NAHT general secretary, said that the Conservative’s plans would be a “significant reduction in school autonomy and curriculum freedom”.
He explained: “Two things in particular worry us about this manifesto pledge. It fails to recognise the new Progress 8 measure.
“While Progress 8 is a clear incentive to the take up of EBacc subjects, it still allows some discretion and flexibility for children, parents and teachers. This was a measure that commanded wide consent but is being superseded before it has begun. This would be a huge waste.”
Mr Hobby said the idea would also continue “the disturbing trend of using Ofsted as an enforcement arm of the government”. He continued: “It seems there will be strong restrictions on the grading of schools that leave no room for the judgement of inspectors about whether a school has made the right choice for the students it serves. The secretary of state has already made that judgement for them, without the inconvenience of an actual inspection.
“The secretary of state believes that the five EBacc subjects are what universities most value for their applicants but university is not always the desired destination for our young people. Many will be better suited to qualifications that equip them for more vocational routes.” CAPTION: EBacc threat? Taking five EBacc subjects could become mandatory for all pupils if the Conservatives win the next General Election