1 Introduction to the report |
1. The English Baccalaureate (EBac) was first
announced by the Secretary of State for Education in a speech
at the Westminster Academy on 6 September 2010. At that event,
Mr Gove argued for a new certificate which would "create
special recognition for those students who secure good passes
in a balanced range of rigorous qualifications" and "ensure
that all childrenespecially those from less privileged
backgroundshave a chance to gain a base of knowledge and
a set of life chances too often restricted to the wealthy".
The Secretary of State further emphasised that, while the English
Baccalaureate would not replace existing performance measures,
it would be "a valid expectation of most young people in
the 21st century" and "could reinvigorate the culture
of learning in this country".
He was clear on the sorts of subjects which might be included
(although the list later changed), based on international evidence
from high-performing countries' experiences, but similarly clear
that the measure would "not preclude the study of other GCSEs
outside of this core or any vocational qualifications that would
be of genuine benefit".
2. The Schools White Paper, published later in
2010, provided more detail about the nature and scope of the EBac:
[W]e will introduce a new awardthe English
Baccalaureatefor any student who secures good GCSE or iGCSE
passes in English, mathematics, the sciences, a modern or ancient
foreign language and a humanity such as history or geography.
This combination of GCSEs at grades A*-C will entitle the student
to a certificate recording their achievement. At the moment only
around 15 per cent of students secure this basic suite of academic
The White Paper went on to explain that that the
English Baccalaureate would serve as a performance measure alongside
the existing 'five good GCSEs' measure.
The first use of the EBac performance measure was when it was
retrospectively applied to the 2010 league tables published on
12 January 2011.
3. The data revealed by the application to the
2010 league tables showed that, in that year, "22% of pupils
took the required subjects and 15.6% of pupils achieved the English
The Fischer Family Trust's evidence revealed that, over the past
few years, the number of students entered for the combination
of subjects leading to an EBac has been declining, although the
proportion of those who would have been awarded the EBac as
a percentage of those entered for it has been on the rise:
1: Number and proportion of all students entered for, and achieving
good GCSEs in, EBac subjects, 2004-10
||Number of students in cohort
||Students entered for EBac suite of subjects
(number, and percentage
|Students attaining A*-C grades in those subjects
(number, and percentage
|Percentage of those entered who attained the required grades
The Fischer Family Trust's evidence also makes clear
that students are performing better in certain EBac subjects:
2: Number and proportion of students in maintained schools (England)
achieving grade C or better for each EBac subject, 2004-10
4. Not least due to the considerable public and
media interest in the EBac, we announced an inquiry into the new
award on 9 February 2011, inviting written evidence by 8 March.
The Committee also took oral evidence from two expert panels and
from the Minister of State at the Department for Education.
The terms of reference for our inquiry included the purpose and
benefits of the EBac as well as the choice of included subjects,
the implications for pupils, schools and employers, and any international
comparisons with the EBac.
5. In this report, we look at the reasons given
by the Government for the creation of the EBac. These appear to
fit into three broad categories: to improve opportunities for
students' social mobility; to ensure a core, academic curriculum
offer for all students; and to provide another performance measure
for use by parents and in tables, as part of the Government's
drive for transparent and publicly available data.
This report offers a chapter on each of these rationales for the
EBac, and examines the Government's position as well as the evidence
we received. First, however, we consider the evidence base for
our inquiry, before looking at the manner in which the EBac was
introduced, which was the subject of much of the evidence we received.
6. As ever, the Committee has benefited from
the involvement of its advisers, Professor Alan Smithers and Professor
Geoff Whitty CBE, and we are grateful to them for their expertise.
The evidence base for our inquiry
7. The response to our call for evidence was
unusually high for a Select Committee inquiry: 362 submissions
were received, together with 346 letters (following a common template
provided by the Incorporated Society of Musicians) as part of
a campaign calling for music to be included within the list of
EBac subjects. This campaign was also highly unusual: the Committee
does not often receive such a number of letters on a single issue.
Submissions came from a variety of sources, including teachers
and parents, schools and colleges, representative and subject
associations, employer and faith-based organisations, and local
8. We note that the majority of the evidence
we received came from education professionals, rather than the
wider public: 107 responses came from individual teachers, 49
from individual headteachers, and 31 from schools, as well as
over 100 from representative groups, subject associations, and
the higher education sector. However, that evidence painted a
somewhat different picture to the findings of two YouGov polls.
While a proportion of the evidence we received was broadly in
favour of a core, academic curriculum for all students, the majority
also raised significant concerns about the EBac. Many of these
were focussed on the precise choice of subjects included, which
we discuss in Chapter 4. Only ten submissions (including that
of the Department for Education) were wholeheartedly supportive
of the EBac.
9. Some of the evidence we received welcomed
aspects of the EBac, or made a point of agreeing that a core,
academic curriculum should be more commonly available than is
currently the case. Two independent polls have suggested that
the subjects included in the EBac are considered by the public
to be broadly those on which school performance tables should
focus. A YouGov poll conducted for The Sun in January 2011
asked which subjects should count towards a "school's league
table positions"; the total results are shown below.
3: Results of a YouGov poll, January 2011, asking which subjects
should count in measuring a school's league table position
|French, German, Spanish or other modern languages
|Information and Communication Technology
|Design and Technology
|Art and design||25%
|None of them||3%
The survey found that the EBac subjects (with the
exception of Latin, which scores low, and other classical languages,
which are not featured in the poll)were considered the most important
by the public when measuring a school's performance. This is supported
by a further YouGov poll, conducted for The Sunday Times,
which showed 69% of those polled were in favour of "changing
school league tables to concentrate on core subjects of English,
maths, science, humanities and a foreign language".
As we will see later in this report, these subjects are also very
similar to those A level subjects considered by the Russell Group
as facilitating entry to its universities.
10. In its submission, the Department for Education
drew attention to the "broadly similar arrangements to the
English Baccalaureate" which it says exist in a number of
countries, including Singapore, Germany, France, Japan, Sweden,
Canada and the Netherlands. However, the Committee finds that
these are not all directly comparable examples. The Department's
full evidence can be found at page Ev 36 of this volume. In the
context of the United Kingdom's recent decline in the international
education performance tables, we agree with the Government that
learning from best practice around the world is important,
and we have considered this evidence further in our report.
1 Speech by the Secretary of State for Education, at
Westminster Academy, 6 September 2010, available at http://www.education.gov.uk/inthenews/speeches/a0064281/michael-gove-to-westminster-academy Back
The Importance of Teaching - The Schools White Paper 2010,
p. 44 Back
See The Importance of Teaching - The Schools White Paper 2010,
p. 44 Back
Ev 36 (Department for Education) Back
Adapted from table shown at Ev w357 (Fischer Family Trust), and
additional information received from the Fischer Family Trust.
Percentages have been rounded. Back
Adapted from table shown at Ev w356, and additional information
received from the Fischer Family Trust. Percentages have been
rounded. The complete list of subjects and qualifications which
count towards the EBac is available at Appendix A; in the context
of this table, therefore, 'Humanities' refers to those subjects
and qualifications which count towards the 'humanities' component
of the EBac, 'Languages' to the relevant language qualifications,
and so on. Back
A list of witnesses and written evidence received can be found
at the back of this report Back
The announcement of the inquiry can be viewed at http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/education-committee/inquiries/the-english-baccalaureate/ Back
More information on the Government's programme to improve the
transparency and availability of data, specifically within education,
can be found at www.number10.gov.uk/news/letter-to-cabinet-ministers-on-transparency-and-open-data/,
and in The Importance of Teaching - The Schools White Paper
2010, pp. 66-69. Back
Professor Geoff Whitty has declared an interest as a Trustee of
the IFS School of Finance. Back
See paragraph 9 below Back
Table adapted from the poll results, available at http://today.yougov.co.uk/sites/today.yougov.co.uk/files/YG-Archives-Pol-Sun-LeagueTables-130111.pdf.
1,518 people were polled. Back
The complete results of this January 2011 poll, which asked a
range of questions about the Government's policies and performance,
including on education, can be found at http://today.yougov.co.uk/sites/today.yougov.co.uk/files/YG-Archives-Pol-ST-results-21-230111.pdf
See the Foreword by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister
to The Importance of Teaching - The Schools White Paper 2010
(November 2010): "In the most recent OECD PISA survey in
2006 we fell from 4th in the world in the 2000 survey
to 14th in science, 7th to 17th
in literacy, and 8th to 24th in mathematics.
The only way we can catch up, and have the world-class schools
our children deserve, is by learning the lessons of other countries'
success." (p. 3) Back