Nine in 10 school leaders oppose compulsory English Baccalaureate

Just one in ten school leaders are supportive of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) changes, a union survey has found.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) last month surveyed almost 1,000 of its members and almost 90 per cent disagreed with the reforms, due to come in from next month for year 7 pupils.

The change requires every secondary pupil to study English, maths, science, history or geography and a modern foreign language until they are 16.

Of the school leaders who do not agree with the EBacc model, 747 said it would leave less room for creative and vocational subjects, and 841 said it “does not suit every pupil”. More than 80 per cent were also concerned about the inflexibility of the range of subjects.

In July, education secretary Nicky Morgan defended the EBacc and said it would not have an impact on creative subjects. The latest GCSE figures show that art and design, and music entries have both increased in the past year.

Concerns have also been raised about teacher recruitment. Almost two thirds of surveyed leaders said they do not have enough staff to cover the changes, with languages posing the biggest problem – 69 per cent of leaders said they already faced difficulty in staffing such subjects or expect to do so once the policy begins.

This backs up research by the Education Datalab, which, in June, said schools would need to find more than 2,000 extra teachers to cope with the impact of the EBacc.

GCSE results released last week show the numbers of modern foreign languages teachers declined last year despite the government’s focus on the subject over the past five years.

ASCL deputy general secretary Malcolm Trobe said he hoped the Department for Education’s planned consultation for the autumn  would lead to more flexibility in the requirements.

He added: “It is clear from our survey that the vast majority of school leaders are concerned that the current proposals are too rigid and will restrict their ability to offer a curriculum which suits the needs of all their pupils.

“We are concerned that creative, technology and vocational subjects are in danger of being squeezed out and we must ensure there is room in the curriculum for them.

“It needs to be recognised that the EBacc will not suit some pupils whose interests and talents may lay in other areas, and who will be demotivated by being forced to take GCSEs in which they have little interest. We hope that ministers will not therefore require that every pupil takes the EBacc and will allow that a proportion are better served by other options.”

In April, Schools Week reported that one in three University Technical Colleges (UTCs) – vocational schools for 14-19 year olds and championed by David Cameron – did not offer all the EBacc subjects.

At the weekend, Lord Baker, whose charity the Baker Dearing Trust sponsors the UTC programme, called for more “career colleges”. It is unclear whether UTCs and career colleges must conform to the EBacc requirement.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are determined to ensure that every child who is able, studies the core academic subjects that will set them up for later life. For too long many pupils, and in particular pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, were deterred from taking these subjects, which prevented them from reaching their full potential.

“The myth that the EBacc is having a negative impact on take up of creative and vocational subjects was fundamentally disproven by last week’s GCSE results which showed an increase of 3.4 per cent since 2010 in entries to art and design GCSEs.

“We are working with the sector to make sure there are enough teachers with the right skills and knowledge to allow pupils to study Ebacc subjects at GCSE. Teaching remains a popular career and we provide bursaries for those training to teach many of the Ebacc subjects.”

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  1. What percentage of Headteachers have to oppose a DfE plan before the plan is altered?

    What percentage of Headteachers have to oppose a plan before their professional associations actually do something to make the government listen?

    Is there a point when being polite just gets you walked over? If Headteachers believe that this is bad for students, surely they have a moral obligation to act.

    Evidence from the last few years tells me that ASCL and NAHT will just roll over and be ignored. These associations are like negligent parents who say “no” to their whining children but quickly give in and do exactly what the badly behaved child wants, just to keep them quiet. Eventually the naughty child become completely out of control demanding more and more.

    Inaction just leads to ever more outrageous demands.

    I hope I am wrong.