The SSAT have recently performed a survey of headteachers on their feelings towards the new EBacc arrangements… but what did they have to say about the controversial system being outlined by our new government? And where does it leave SEND schools and students?
For those out of the loop
The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) is a school performance measure. It allows people to see how many pupils get a grade C or above in the core academic subjects at key stage 4 in any government-funded school. The DfE introduced the EBacc measure in 2010. In June 2015, they announced the intention that all pupils who start year 7 in September 2015 will take the EBacc subjects when they reach their GCSEs in 2020.
What was the survey all about?
If you’d like to see the full SSAT article, you can read it here. The intention was to find out what the heads of schools and colleges feel about the EBacc arrangements and how it might impact on their schools and students. The main headlines are as follows:
- In the first 3 days of the survey, one and a half thousand responses were received. The responding schools were almost all community schools and academies. Just over 87% of responses came from good (58.2%) or outstanding (29.4%) schools.
- Responding schools catered for a predominantly more able student grouping with only 33.8% described as below average.
- Less than 1% of respondents already offer the EBacc to all, while in almost 40% of schools the full EBacc is followed by more than one pupil in two.
- Only 16% of respondents said that they would make the EBacc compulsory if that was a requirement for an Outstanding judgement from Ofsted.
- 70% of respondents would refuse to teach the EBacc for all, even if that meant a ceiling of Ofsted Good for their schools.
- Over 44% of Outstanding schools would refuse to teach the EBacc for all, even if it meant losing their Outstanding status. A further 34% of Outstanding schools remain undecided. Only 1 in 5 Outstanding schools said that they would make the Ebacc compulsory for all.
- 83% of schools would have to change their staffing, with 45% anticipating significant changes required.
- Only one school in ten would not have to make cuts to other subjects on the curriculum in order to accommodate the EBacc for all. Most commonly cited subjects under threat among the other 90% of schools are technologies, arts, PE and RE
- 69% of respondents would have to reduce their vocational provision, with a further 10% still not sure.
- Only 12% of respondents felt that the EBacc for all would benefit students. 80% felt there would be no benefit, with a further 8% unsure.
- Conversely, 94% of respondents felt that students would be disadvantaged by a compulsory EBacc curriculum, with a further 2% still unsure.
- The overwhelming view is that the EBacc requirement would benefit the more able and disadvantage the less able.
What about SEND schools and students?
Although the DfE have made it clear that SEND schools and students will be exempt from the EBacc arrangements (we assume they will therefore still be able to be considered as “Outstanding” by Ofsted), one must remember that all (or most) mainstream schools will have a proportion of students who are going through the assessment process and who do not yet have an EHC plan in place. Where schools take up the EBacc, those students will inevitably be placed under more stress and pressure to perform at these more “academic” subjects – and potentially at a very stressful point in their lives.
The comments above also indicate that many schools will have to reduce vocational courses in order to accommodate EBacc subjects. While this is all very well for higher-achieving students, those who are lower-achieving or have a SEND (who may be relying on taking vocational courses in order to achieve useful qualifications) may find it more difficult to find an educational pathway suited to their skills. Surely what the government must remember is that not every student is highly academic – and that is OK! Pushing for compulsory EBacc would certainly seem to promote the widening of the gap between the more and less able students in our care, as well as the gap between SEND and non-SEND students in mainstream education. However, if schools follow through with their refusal to take up compulsory EBacc, as the SSAT survey suggests, this may all end up being a purely academic exercise anyway!