University technical colleges and studio schools have been excluded from the government’s EBacc entry target, but the measure will still be included in the institutions’ league table scores.
On Wednesday, the Department for Education finally published its long-delayed response to its consultation on the EBacc, which closed nearly 18 months ago.
Justine Greening announced that she had pushed back the government’s target to reach 90 per cent of pupils entered into the full slate of EBacc GCSEs by seven years, until 2027.
Exempting UTCs, studio schools and further education colleges will go further to help the government reach its target, especially as the former two both have historically low EBacc entry figures.
A report by the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank found that just 10 per cent of UTC pupils were entered for the EBacc in 2015-16, even though these specialist technical institutions actually have a comprehensive year 10 intake similar to the national average.
Just six per cent of studio school pupils were entered into the EBacc in 2015-16.
But individual EBacc entry rates of institutions will still count as a headline performance measure and will be published in league tables, to allow, the DfE said, parents to “compare education settings based on a common set of clear and transparent performance data”.
The move is likely to anger key technical school advocates including Lord Baker, who has previously criticised the “regressive” EBacc for reducing opportunities for students with low attainment.
The Baker Dearing Educational Trust, which oversees UTCs, said it was pleased they had been omitted from the overall target, something it has campaigned for since the policy was introduced.
But, in relation to the league tables, the trust’s chief executive Charles Parker said: “Some UTCs may want to offer the EBacc, but for those that do not offer the EBacc this will show as a nil return in that part of the government’s performance tables.
“UTCs will continue to be judged on their performance through other elements of the performance tables, Ofsted, and the excellent destinations of UTC students.”
The DfE claimed it had omitted UTCs and studio schools from the target in light of consultation responses, adding: “We decided that it is not appropriate to expect the same rates of EBacc entry … as in mainstream schools.”
However the consultation actually reveals that 37 per cent of respondents believe the EBacc policy should apply in the same way across all schools.
Just 16 per cent think the policy should not apply to UTCs, while 16 per cent think it shouldn’t apply to studio schools.
Concerns were also raised in the consultation that not applying the policy across all school types could discriminate against pupils in mainstream schools who may want to take technical pathways, but who are not able to attend a specialist institution.
But the government pointed to some consultation responses that said technical schools were designed to deliver an alternative technical or professionally focused curriculum, and would not offer the opportunity for all students to study five EBacc pillars.
Some also suggested the technical institutions would have difficulties recruiting teachers in EBacc subjects, including humanities and languages.
Institutions have also raised serious concerns about their ability to continue to provide a “specialised key stage 4 curriculum if they were expected to teach the EBacc subjects to the vast majority of their pupils”, according to the consultation.
The government, in its consultation response, insisted that every 14-to-16 institution should “consider carefully whether its specialist curriculum is compatible with the full EBacc”.
“Where it is, they should offer the EBacc subjects and should consider on a case-by-case basis whether pupils should be entered for them.”