League tables and English Bac

10 Jan 2011

The secondary school league tables for England will be published this week and will include - for the first time - the new measure showing how many students have achieved the "English Baccalaureate" (GCSEs at A* to C including: Maths, English, a humanity, a foreign language, and double science/two single sciences).

This is slightly odd since the new Bac was only announced by the coalition government after pupils had taken their GCSEs in summer 2010. In other words, this is a retrospective measure.

It is a bit like the Premier League deciding, in mid-season, to award extra points for every goal scored or corner achieved and back-dating tables for the results of games already played. 

Some schools are set to score poorly on the English Bac measure and will feel hard done by as they are being judged on a measure that was not in existence when pupils were choosing their courses.

At present only history and geography qualify as humanities, yet many teachers believe other subjects - such as Religious Studies,  Sociology or Media Studies - should be included. A government source tells me ministers will listen to other views on this and will not be "blinkered" to possible changes. However, any changes will not come in time for this year's league tables. 

In my Twitter feed, I asked "is this fair?". Here are some of the responses:

Dale Bassett: Not really "applying retrospectively" - just a quantitative measure of existing stats. Exactly the same as when the 'including English & Maths' measure was introduced alongside 5 A*-Cs in any subject by previous govt - ran successfully side by side for years.

Margaret Morrissey: I think League tables are not worth the paper they are written on so no problem in my camp. My advice to parents: ignore them.

@GiftedPhoenix: Gives a baseline I suppose. There should also be an advanced/higher Bac for those getting A*/A in every subject.

@SchoolDuggery: I'm less worried about the retrospective thing (though angry at the spin put on it by @ToryPressHQ and the papers) than the narrow and arbitrary scope of it. Evidence that these particular GCSEs are more difficult or more valued is thin.Expanding the scope of it will help, but Y9 students are choosing options now.

@robcarter: EBacc is fair as we can't all just play the game and tick the right boxes. This is what would happen by next year.

@LeeDonaghy: of course not! The way this has been spun is an excuse to bash Labour's record and win support for Tory agenda. It stinks.

@SurrealAnarchy: good to ask for a range of knowledge but it is devalued if it doesn't include the arts.

@local_schoolsuk: Unfair!

@Voicetheunion: What’s the point of this Bacc-lite?

@DrSpenny: but is it ethical to encourage children to choose EB subjects for the benefit of league table position?

@itsmotherswork: Fair? Nope.

What do you think? Send me your views on Twitter to @mikebakeredhack or use the form below to respond.


User Comments

Wayne Holmes - 10 Jan 2011

League tables and English Bac

My son, who is in his second GCSE year, is not taking History or Geography. So even if he achieves his predicted A's in his 12 GCSE subjects, he won't have achieved the Bac as currently outlined.

David Weston - 10 Jan 2011

Language used by Gove.

Michael Gove originally said "If you get five GCSEs in those areas, I think you should be entitled to special recognition" and yet now this has changed to "We are publishing more information which shines a light on the last Government’s failure to give millions of children access to core academic knowledge in other subjects". The language has moved from a measure of success to a measure of failure. I hope for everyone's sake that this latter statement is a blip, and that he will continue engaging constructively and positively with teachers.

Alison Livesey - 10 Jan 2011

E Bacc

My daughter is doing her GCSEs this year. She will not get the EBacc as she is not doing a language. Potentially she could get 9A* and not have "special recognition" while another student who only passes the 5 EBacc subjects at grade C would get "special recognition". I don't understand the obsession with labelling children "failures". They work hard, they try their best, they achieve some things and not others. That doesn't make them failures, it makes the human.

Actually I do understand it. It's about creating a public perception of generalised educational failure so that it is easier to push through the "reforms" and effective privatisation of state education.

Francis Gilbert - 10 Jan 2011

English Baccalaureate

It’s very unfair for the Bacc to be introduced retrospectively and quite frankly farcical for “dead languages” to be put on a par with Modern Foreign Languages which are “living” languages: you can’t go on an exchange trip to Ancient Rome. Furthermore, the logical conclusion of including subjects like Biblical Hebrew but excluding many Arts subjects and RE and PE is that these “dead” languages are more important than these vibrant, living subjects.

Helen Flynn - 11 Jan 2011

English Bacc

Why, in this day and age and with an uncertain, fast-changing world and future, do academic subjects have to take centre stage? The only test for the worth of subjects taught should be whether they are appropriate for each child and their own interests and aptitude. We were moving more in this direction with greater tolerance for a greater variety of disciplines and vocational subjects more in tune with modern times. Now, not only is this new league table initiative retrospective, but the Government itself that sanctioned it is deeply backward looking. We should be forward-looking and fostering innovation, not outdated orthodoxy.

Laurie Perry - 12 Jan 2011

English Bac

The English Bac is interesting in that it attempts to measure a broader range of knowledge, but to be broader still it should include the arts (music, drama, art, dance etc). A greater concern is that the Bac approach will not be appropriate for all students: we still need alternative pathways to achievement; Btecs, for example, still have an important part to play. Finally, a narrow, academic focus will not equip young people to take their place in society: they need to learn about tolerance, diversity, respect,teamwork, taking responsibility and being independent, as well as developing their creativity. How do we measure these and reflect them in league tables?

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