The English Baccalaureate - Education Committee Contents

6  Concluding remarks

85.  The response to our EBac inquiry was unusually large: well over 300 written submissions in addition to a subject-specific campaign of more than 340 similarly-worded letters. Those submissions came from a variety of individuals and organisations, the overwhelming majority of whom were professionals delivering secondary education. While there was significant support for the principles of a broad and balanced curriculum, the majority of the evidence we received was striking in its lack of support for the EBac as it currently stands.

86.  In addition to the problems associated with the EBac's top-down introduction which we have discussed here, written evidence—supported by the experts from whom we took oral evidence—expressed a wide range of concerns about the detail of the EBac, including the subjects contained therein, the award's impact on schools, teachers and pupils, and its implications for progression and use in performance assessment. We have attempted to address some of these concerns in this report, in the hope that any future measures might be better designed and implemented and, therefore, more acceptable to the teachers and pupils who will engage with them day to day.

87.  We think the Government is right to say that all children should have access to a broad and balanced curriculum up to the age of sixteen, including traditional, academic subjects, and that the attainment gap between rich and poor can, and should, be narrowed. The evidence available does suggest that the list of subjects contained in the EBac is, broadly speaking, representative of those that have the highest value to the individual in keeping their options open. However, our inquiry has uncovered significant concerns about:

  • the exact composition of the EBac. We therefore recommend a review of the complement of subjects in the EBac, following the completion of the National Curriculum Review, which should seek input not only from teachers, parents and pupils, but also from higher and further education institutions, employers, and learned societies;
  • the impact the EBac will have on students, including the most disadvantaged, about which the evidence was unclear. We therefore urge the Government to keep the EBac under careful scrutiny, and to consult more widely with the public on how best to measure students' and schools' performance, with a view to developing a range of measures including the reviewed EBac;
    • and
  • the manner of the EBac's introduction, which we believe damaged its potential credibility. We would therefore encourage the Government to take seriously the lessons to be learnt from that introduction, especially if, as we hope, the Government is to be successful in building greater respect for front-line professionals.

88.  We understand from the Government that it will "review the precise definition of the English Baccalaureate for the 2011 [performance tables]".[158] By contrast, the Secretary of State has said that he "love[s] it the way it is" and is not "planning to change anything at the moment."[159] We hope our report has provided useful evidence for a review which we, and the majority of the witnesses from whom we heard, would warmly welcome.

158   HC Deb 31 January 2011 col 553W Back

159   Quoted in "After-school classes set up in frantic bid to up EBac ratings" The Times Educational Supplement, 18 March 2011 Back

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Prepared 28 July 2011