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Dr Bernard Trafford, headteacher of the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle upon Tyne, and a former chair of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference raises concerns over the EBacc
The head teacher of the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle upon Tyne, Dr Bernard Trafford, has written an article in the TES warning that ‘we shall live to regret the EBacc’ and that ‘the damage to other subjects is already being wrought.’ A former chair of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, this article is a neat summary of the implications of the EBacc in schools.
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More than eight in 10 headteachers say the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) performance measure is limiting opportunities for their more vocationally minded pupils, according to a poll.
The new report, which comes as students sit their GCSE exams, reveals widespread concern that pupils with vocational talent are being failed by an increasingly academic school system.
It comes days after the Conservatives pledged in their manifesto to have at least 90 per cent of students studying the EBacc – a group of academic subjects – by 2025 if they win power.
Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of secondary school leaders in England say the school system should provide better outcomes for their vocationally and technically minded pupils, according to the report from The Key – an organisation that provides leadership support to schools.
It also reveals that provision in vocational and technical education, which includes subjects such as catering, construction and engineering, has become weaker in more than half (56 per cent) of secondary schools since 2014 because of changes to the school system.
And more than two-fifths (43 per cent) think splitting the curriculum into academic and vocational/technical streams would provide a solution.
According to the survey of more than 1,100 headteachers, 78 per cent said they have seen an increase in fear of academic failure among pupils since 2014.
One secondary school leader said: “How do you measure a child’s success? With their academic progress. The whole system is set up for that and if you’re not academic, you are seen as failing.”
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Official government figures show the demand for teachers in EBacc subjects is set to soar, indicating the subjects will become mandatory, despite a consultation response on the policy being withheld from publication.
Almost twice as many trainees in geography, for example, are needed next year, while the demand for new teachers in creative subjects will fall by up to 11 per cent in some cases.
The Department for Education (DfE) last week published its initial teacher training allocations for 2017-18. This follows an unprecedented decision not to release them last September.
Among the data was the government’s teacher supply model predictions that reveal how many teachers it presumes should be trained in each subject to meet national demand next year.
These reveal a huge increase in the need for teachers of EBacc subjects, with some estimations nearly doubling.
Associations representing non-EBacc subjects say the figures are “deeply concerning” and criticise the government for “pre-judging” the outcome of the delayed EBacc consultation.
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The Bacc for the Future campaign has handed in a letter to Number 10 Downing Street calling for the publication of the government’s response to the EBacc consultation.
There are over 100 signatures on the letter, including Sir Simon Rattle, Alison Balsom OBE, Robert Lindsay, Phillip Pullman, Sir John Eliot Gardiner and Sir Tony Robinson.
The letter states that the EBacc is ‘damaging the quality of the education offered to pupils in England’ and ‘harming the uptake of non-EBacc subjects, most notably creative, artistic and technical subjects.’
It notes that provision for and uptake of arts subjects has suffered since 2015/16, adding: ‘As pupils in secondary schools choose their GCSE subject options, we urge you to reverse this damaging policy, respond to the consultation and withdraw the EBacc.’
The letter continues: ‘We struggle to see a link between the Government’s commitment to the creative industries as a central sector for growth with an education policy (the EBacc) which creates an artificial and false hierarchy of subjects, excluding creative, artistic and technical subjects from counting towards key school accountability measures.’
It concludes by stating that the signatories look forward to hearing ‘that the government has listened and is reversing the EBacc policy.’
Read the letter