A technical change to the government’s target for the proportion of pupils studying the EBacc subjects means that ministers are actually delaying their own ambitions for the measure by seven years.
David Cameron’s government pledged in 2015 to have 90 per cent of pupils entered into GCSEs for the full slate of EBacc subjects by 2020.
However, Justine Greening, the education secretary, has now confirmed that the government will now only expect to see 90 per cent of pupils studying the EBacc GCSEs in 2025. This means pupils won’t be entered for the subjects until 2027.
The change is in the language used by the government when talking about the target.
In the original consultation on the EBacc, released in 2015, the government specifically set out its intention that pupils who were in year 7 at the time and who would go on sit their GCSEs in 2020 would be the first cohort to “benefit” from the government’s 90 per cent goal.
In the document, the government said it was “making plain” that the “vast majority of pupils currently in year 7 should, in five years’ time, be entered for the EBacc at GCSE”.
But in its response to the consultation, published today, the government says it only expects to have 90 per cent of pupils “starting to study EBacc GCSE courses” by 2025.
That means that the original target of 90 per cent of pupils sitting exams in EBacc subjects will not be met until 2027.
Greening said the consultation allowed the government to understand the barriers schools faced over increasing EBacc entry, and having listened to teachers has come up with an approach which is “both pragmatic and stretching”.
“I know it will take time for our nation’s schools to enter 90% of pupils for the EBacc subjects and I do not underestimate the challenge involved in meeting this ambition from our current position.”
Greening added: “I also recognise the time needed to meet these challenges and build the right capacity across the whole school system, particularly to ensure that schools have high quality staff in the right subjects.”