The English Bac Isn't the Answer

Article excerpt

IF the English bac is to become the new gold standard at GCSE, schools will do all they can to make sure their students get it, but objectively it is the most backward step curriculum policy has taken for 30 years. Pulling six GCSE options out a hat, making ancient Greek and biblical Hebrew qualify for approval but not RE or sociology, is a bizarre move, with the danger of reviving all the cliches about the Tories as the party of privilege.

The principle of giving overarching accreditation to a set of knowledge, rather than thinking about all the knowledge, skills and achievements a student should have under their belt by age 16, must also be questioned.

The English bac was introduced without consultation with heads. The way this week's figures are based on last year's results is highly unfair for schools, judging them in a way they could not have prepared for. If this was a decision free of cynicism, ministers would not have been so specific about the subjects required this year and could have phased in the changes; but this way the government can start out from a low baseline with plenty of room for "improvement".

Many things in the White Paper are welcome in their progressiveness: from pledges to deregulate the education sector and cut bureaucracy, to promises to make schools more autonomous. I would like to see a thorough debate on what a 21stcentury baccalaureate should look like, with recognition that it should encompass a broader range of knowledge and skills that will challenge and inspire young people and equip them for success. …