Opinion Former Article

NUT on the English Baccalaureate

Commenting on figures today indicating the impact of the EBacc on schools, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers' union, said:

“Michael Gove is proving to be a master of spin, making bold claims that are as ever utterly unfounded. It is almost comical to claim that ‘just 22 per cent of GCSE-stage pupils were entered for the EBacc’ in 2010 when it didn't even exist at the time.

“A year does not make a trend. The Government are keen to take credit for the take up in triple science, but the upward trend was there already and extends across five years. Physics entry increased by more than 16% last year alone, before the EBacc could reasonably be expected to have had an effect.

“It is no surprise that the number of students taking what he defines as 'core' subjects are expected to rocket in the next couple of years. What else should we expect when the EBacc is being promoted by Government as the most important measure of success at GCSE level?

“There is a very real danger that some young people will be directed away from subjects that would best support their developing aptitudes and ambitions. The EBacc by itself is not a guarantee of breadth and balance, and nor do increased levels of uptake at this stage necessarily translate into improved levels of motivation, achievement or attainment. As the NUT warned all along, this new measure will undermine broad education by driving schools towards a narrow range of options for young people.

“The EBacc is a blunt instrument that takes a narrow view of education. Talking down the value of arts subjects for instance neglects the huge contribution made to the UK economy by theatre, design and music. Many of these courses are being sidelined or eliminated altogether by some schools because of fears that any deviation from the EBacc will be critical to their future. Stifling creativity is the enemy of a good, rounded education.

“The Government is consulting on new performance table measures. In doing so they have identified the perverse incentives that league tables can lead to, but have sought to remedy those by introducing new performance measures including the EBacc, which bypassed consultation entirely. All this without any apparent awareness that in seeking to rectify pre-existing, detrimental and unwanted negative outcomes they may simply introduce different but equally bad ones.

“Certainly, the EBacc will do nothing to raise attainment or aspiration for the lowest achieving students, as the Select Committee recently reported. We need to hear rather less about Mr Gove's arbitrary choice of favourite subjects and see his energies better directed to ensuring that all schools are properly resourced and aided in their efforts to offer a fully rounded education and to close the achievement gap.”

END pr112-2011
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