Last week the Department for Education released provisional performance data for secondary schools.*
The data includes the number of students ‘entering’ and ‘achieving’ the EBacc, Michael Gove’s flagship qualification designed to restore ‘rigour’ to the curriculum. For the former it’s 39.6% of all state funded students, up from 38.6% for 2014/15 and still nowhere near Nicky Morgan’s 90% target for 2020. For the latter, the figure’s 24.5% (compared to 24.3% last year) in other words less than 1 in 4.
The problem for the EBacc continues to be the modern foreign language requirement- last year two thirds of students did not enter a language, compared for example, with just 1 in 5 who did not enter either history or geography and 1 in 10 not entering science. (With English and maths, the subjects making up the EBacc) This year there have been 7% falls in French and German entries -though a slight increase in Spanish.
The DfE has been keeping rather quiet about EBacc recently and has not published the results of the consultation undertaken last year. Instead, it’s focusing attention on the progress-8 attainment measure – where it is possible for students to be able to maximise scores without a foreign language, though their performance in English, maths and three listed EBacc GCSEs must be included.
For Gove’s critics, rather than a step forward, EBacc was part of a return to a narrow, backward looking and elitist learning
– a way of imposing a grammar school curriculum without having to bring back the grammars.
In the future, if never able to properly establish itself in the majority of schools, the EBacc might serve as a necessary precondition for becoming one of Theresa May’s ‘selective’ schools?