Burnham proposes new MBacc

Andy Burnham has launched proposals for a ‘Greater Manchester Baccalaureate’ to promote technical education courses for those young people (the forgotten half as Ed Miliband referred to them) who will not follow the academic route to HE. It’s designed to lead to skilled jobs in the local economy and to avoid the huge debts associated with progressing to HE.

 Coming months after a new devolution deal which gives the mayor more influence over post-16 education and training, as an alternative option to the EBacc from year 10 (15-year-olds). He should be congratulated for his commitment.

But the MBacc, it’s hoped to be available from 2024, will only be a ‘wrap around’ qualification, comprising the EBacc’s compulsory ‘core’ subjects, but adding a range of more technically based GCSE options (or possibly BTEC units if they survive the cull) like engineering.  So the new proposals won’t necessarily put Burnham on collision course with the DfE.  EBacc subjects don’t currently take all of a school’s curriculum time and with clever management, up to two other GCSEs can still be offered to students.  

However, the DfE has set a 90% EBacc completion target for 2025 and some schools may be concerned about Ofsted’s response. The disastrous University Technology Colleges (UTCs) were also allowed to offer a more technically orientated curriculum, though their defenders maintain that the real reason for the collapse of the UTCs was that not enough students were prepared to transfer to them post-14.   

Another more serious issue is that according to Burnham’s office, completing the MBacc will allow students to progress to T-levels (post-16) and then apprenticeships (post-18). T-levels are as yet unproven though critics have been rounding on them from the moment they were created; while the availability of apprenticeships for 18-year-olds has been extremely limited, particularly at Higher Level where most (almost all) of those enrolling have been existing management trainees rather than school or college leavers.

Despite a raft of new initiatives, individual employers have never rated vocational and technical qualifications, preferring ‘ high status’ academic credentials, like A-levels. They also know they can recruit from the large number of graduates forced to take pre-graduate employment in (fast disappearing) ‘middle’ jobs – Manchester has over 100,000 students across four universities.

Nevertheless, the MBacc initiative could have some weight, if it is part of a wider economic plan for the area, in which young people completing technical qualifications are guaranteed secure employment.  Now having greater powers over  funding, Mr Burnham has ambitious plans for reviving the Greater Manchester economy, previously setting out plans for attracting inward international investment, growing big tech and expanding the role of the public sector.

But whether this can stretch to the sort of German style social partnership where qualifications gained on an established vocational pathway serve as a  a ‘licence to practice’ for young people, remains to be seen.  

2 thoughts on “Burnham proposes new MBacc

  1. In response to my previous Fbk posting on this from FENow, Helen Murphy pointed out, ‘It’s not the first UK integrated technical education system… We did it in Northern Ireland since 1969 in a localised area.
    Admission to Senior High Schools (Dickson Plan 14+)
    Admission to Senior High Schools (Dickson Plan 14+)
    Admission to Senior High Schools (Dickson Plan 14+)
    Reply9 h
    Helen Murphy
    And operating in 2023… https://www.eani.org.uk/…/14%2B%20Transfer%20Guide…

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