Search results for 'EBacc'

Bacc off!

18 Jun

Pupils starting secondary school this September will have to study the key English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects of English, maths, science, history or geography, and a language at GCSE.  

Those schools that do not have 100% of pupils studying this set of subjects as part of their GCSE courses will not be able to obtain Ofsted’s top rating of “outstanding”. Now Bill Watkin, operational director of the school support and training body SSAT, has said that many head teachers in England will reject the ‘requirement to teach EBacc to all’  because they felt that it was not appropriate for all youngsters.  

Voice has also raised its concerns about the “narrow and pointless” EBacc, warning that it does not promote a  broad and balanced curriculum, and excludes vocational and technical subjects, RE, drama, music and ICT from this measure of supposedly “crucial” “rigorous academic” subjects. 

As Laura McInerney put it in her Guardian article “There’s nothing sadder than EBacc without teachers”: 

Schools minister Nick Gibb believes we should force children to study a random set of academic subjects that he’s decided are the best ones, despite there being no evidence to back him up. 

“On its own the English Baccalaureate – or EBacc – sounds perfectly benign. English, maths and science have long been accepted as a core set of subjects, and all children learn languages, history and geography to 14, so why not extend to 16? But we could say that for lots of things. Why not stick RE in there? Or drama? What about ICT?

“In a 2,500-word speech … all about the importance of the EBacc subjects, Gibb never once made the case for why languages, geography or history deserve this special treatment. 

“What is true is that religious education numbers have dropped dramatically since the EBacc was introduced, and arts are likely to be hit in the coming years. Gibb admits this – ‘there are several valuable subjects which are not included’ – which raises the question: why not? No answer is forthcoming. 

“Then there’s the problem with recruitment. Teacher shortages are already panicking headteachers and, put simply, there aren’t enough language and humanities teachers out there to make this work.”

Mr Gibb claimed that “there is time for most pupils to study other subjects in addition to the EBacc, including vocational and technical disciplines which are also vital to future economic growth”. If they are “vital”, why not include them? 

Your views 

Let us know your views on the EBacc.

Do you think that there will be “time for most pupils to study other subjects in addition to the EBacc”?

Should all pupils study the EBacc and should schools have to ensure this to be “outstanding”?

Poll (18 June to 7 October 2015)

“Should all pupils have to study the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects of English, maths, science, history or geography, and a language at GCSE?”  


  • No (72%, 23 votes)
  • Yes (28%, 9 votes)  



Sour note for school music. Are LA cuts and academisation to blame? (updated)

3 Jun

Update: 3 June 2014

 BBC News:Funding cuts put music at risk

15 November 2013:

A quality music education only reaches a minority of pupils in England’s schools, according to an Ofsted report.   

This is a shameful situation for an important cultural and academic discipline that may also help with lifelong learning.  

Music services to schools that were traditionally provided by local authorities have been cut. 

The distorting effect of league tables and the EBacc have also had an impact on subjects like music. 

An independent review of Cultural Education in England also raised concerns that cultural education in England was “patchy”, warning of concerns about how much the coalition government values cultural education in schools and highlighting the impact of the EBacc. 

The fragmentation of the education service, following the introduction of academies and free schools, also seems to be having a negative impact on music education. 

In a letter in the May 2012 issue of the Voice members’ magazine, Your Voice, ‘Katherine’ wrote:  

“I am a peripatetic music teacher. Several colleagues have had to take voluntary redundancy because the schools can’t afford to buy in music provision. The situation will become much worse with all the academies. 

“The rumours are that the academies will not use the LA service in future because they are being charged more. I believe they are charged more because they have been given a percentage of our budget because they are no longer LA schools. In effect, they are being charged the same price because they have the money that was our funding, but they don’t see it that way. 

“My children are at an academy and are suffering because the LA provision is more expensive so opportunities like field trips are being taken away.” 

Do let us know your thoughts and experiences…

The Gove chap-hop rap

25 Mar

Michael Gove the rapper?!  Apparently, the Education Secretary has confessed to The Mail on Sunday that he has:

a soft spot for contemporary English ‘eccentric’ music. [I] am strangely addicted to chap-hop rappers Professor Elemental, Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer and Mr Bruce and the Correspondents.”

The Gove chap-hop rap

My name is Michael – one knows I’m really cool –
I’m sending a signed Bible to every school?
Academies are wicked, so are free schools.
I like to rip up the professionals’ rules.
If you ain’t with me, I’ll dis you big time –
You’re a trot, enemy of promise, the blob – you n’me don’t rhyme.
respond to consultations – you must be kidding.
I don’t like sports, especially
Dave’s got too many friends who went to Eton,
But turns out “ridiculous” was a bit cheat’n.
I like to make speeches that are all about me.
I big up the
EBacc and tinker with history.
I like to be
raucous at PM’s Question Time
I’m not in favour of QT, unless it’s
teachers without that Status – then that’s just fine.

Tag: Michael Gove

We need parity between academic and vocational education

5 Feb

According to a new study commissioned by the Edge Foundation:

“Many young people are being actively discouraged from opting for vocational education – with just a quarter of parents (27%) judging it to be worthwhile.

“This is despite evidence that people who choose a practical, hands-on approach to learning are as fulfilled as people who took an academic route.” 

Voice has long called for parity between academic and vocational education and courses and exams designed to meet students’ needs, rather than focusing on a narrow range of academic subjects

Voice is also concerned that vocational qualifications are reported separately in performance tables to academic qualifications:

“If qualifications are treated separately, this will not give vocational subjects the same status as A levels and other academic qualifications. 

“This looks like ongoing educational apartheid.” 

Do let us know your views…

“Poverty of expectation” and “poor attitudes to learning”?

11 Dec

When we go to work, many of us might expect to be busy, perhaps stressed. We might not always get on with some of our colleagues. But how many of us would put up with being been kicked, punched, spat at, having furniture thrown at us or being told to “**** off!” on a regular basis? We wouldn’t, but that can be the experience of teachers and teaching assistants. If you were picturing rowdy teenagers in a secondary school, all of those incidents took place a in a primary school!

These more extreme cases are not indicative of daily school life in general, but Sir Michael Wilshaw, in his briefing on Ofsted’s 2012/2013 annual report, is right about low-level indiscipline  – “background chatter, inattention and horseplay” – but they are a cause for concern for many staff – not a “casual acceptance”. 

Teachers also face a barrage of (moving) targets, curriculum changes, league tables – national and international (PISA) – and denigration from politicians, inspectors and the media, in a system driven by tests and results, not by the needs of children. The system incentivises schools to concentrate on those children and subjects that will produce the ‘best’ results. 

The “poverty of expectation” and “poor attitudes to learning” that Sir Michael talks of are issues for parents, communities and government and not an attitude of schools. 

Positive management of pupil behaviour is essential for learning. However, discipline is not just the responsibility of the school – parents also play a key role, both in promoting good behaviour and in being held to account for their children’s attitudes and outlooks – and most do fulfil that role. 

However, as Professional Officers (Wales) John Till pointed out, we need some “honesty on underachievement

“What are schools to do with those who will not accept the values and expectations of most parents and teachers and who, by their attitude and actions, prejudice the experiences and opportunities of others?

“Even with the most inspired and committed teaching there seem to be some who want none of it, and they are the ones who bring down the levels of achievement in the schools they attend.

“Challenging those attitudes and overcoming that resistance are perhaps the greatest challenges for the education service today, not just in Britain but in all developed countries.”

In The TES, Joe Nutt’s article “Teachers cannot mend the crippled limbs of society. Sorry, Ofstedcontends that:

“What neither schools nor teachers can do much about is the nature of the problem foisted on them by the communities they serve. And it is not the problem the policy gurus and the strategic thinkers in government think it is. Absence of the desire to learn.”

However, this is not only an issue of irresponsible, uncaring parents. A recent article in The Daily Telegraph: reported that “Busy parents ‘failing to teach children right from wrong’”:

“Busy middle-class parents are abdicating moral responsibility for their sons and daughters because of the mounting pressure of work.”

One of our members gave an example of parents sending a child who was ill into class, in contravention of the school’s sickness policy, with the attitude:

“Well he was sick last night, but he’ll be fine”.

Another member commented on the need to:

“motivate parents towards educational ambition for their children. Qualified Teacher Status is imperative but is nothing without parental backing. Staff need support in an increasingly challenging environment – it’s about time parents understood the nature of the job.”


Sir Michael also talks of “unlucky children” “born in the wrong area”. If the emphasis of the education system is on academic subjects and educating the academically ‘brightest’ to go to university and then move away for better employment prospects and a ‘better life’ elsewhere, where does that leave those communities?

Those communities need job prospects for their young people, who need access to quality vocational education and training that has parity with academic qualifications – something the Government pays only lip-service to, with its obsession with the narrow range of subjects in the EBacc.

In his FT data Blog “The social mobility challenge for school reformers”, Christopher Cook’s detailed analysis concludes:

“This is the graph that ought to haunt the dreams of every school reformer. The social mobility problem is not that there is a small number of weak schools serving a lot of poor kids. It is that poor children do badly in the majority of England’s schools.”

In Scotland, however, there is now research being undertaken into the links between poverty, deprivation and poor academic achievement, and how to develop a more equitable education system, at the Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change.   

Staffing issues

Ofsted’s call for a teachers and leaders to move to the parts of the country with the greatest need for high quality staff” also presents a challenge for both communities and schools. If the ‘best’ teachers and heads are incentivised to move to other schools, that is good for the schools they are moving to but deprives their original schools of the key staff who made them a success in the first place.

Would those staff be willing to be moved around the country, perhaps for relatively short periods of time? Many of them are likely to have partners/spouses, children, houses etc.

A more effective model would be pools of local authority staff. They could perhaps follow the example of Scotland, where school staff are normally appointed to the service of the council and not to a particular school. These locally-based headteachers and teachers would also have a greater knowledge of the local community, the issues it faces, the local employers and so forth.


As a society, we need to be aware of adults’ roles and responsibilities in creating the environment in which children grow. Schools are expected to compensate not just for parents’ shortcomings, but also for the pressures adult society imposes on young people. 

Yes, schools and individual teachers can and do ‘make a difference’ but the attitude of some pupils and their parents can have a destructive effect on those pupils’ welfare and learning and have a negative impact on those of other pupils and their school. How we provide an education for those with no desire to learn, who have little or no parental support in a target-driven, rather than person-centred, system is arguably the most serious challenge facing our education system.

However, despite the challenges set out in Ofsted’s report, we should be encouraged by its findings that:

  • “Nearly eight in 10 schools in England are now good or better – the highest proportion since Ofsted was founded 20 years ago.
  • “Around 485,000 more primary school pupils and 188,000 more secondary school pupils attend a good or better school compared with a year ago
  • “’Looking at the evidence across all sectors, there are unmistakeable signs that England’s education system is gradually improving.
  • Tenacious and committed teachers and leaders are at the forefront of this.”
Do let us know your thoughts…