Search results for 'EBacc'

EBacc: the Art-force Dodger?

21 Sep

An article in today’s TES, “The fourth R” asks:

“Reading, writing, arithmetic and art? A growing chorus is calling for the subject to have the same prominence as the traditional pillars of school curricula. The education system needs to embrace this argument, says Helen Ward.”

“It may sound like a case for ICT learning how to insert a jpeg or upload videos but only if you consider websites to be primarily text-based with supporting images. In fact, in the world of YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram, web pages are overwhelmingly an assemblage of images. Learning to write effectively is not just about learning how to spell – it is about choosing which words will be most effective for your purpose. Similarly, being visually literate, able to choose and create images, is not about how to upload images – it is about what pictures to select and why.”

“Barbara Stafford, emeritus professor at the University of Chicago, US, foresaw these changes in her 1994 book Artful Science: enlightenment, entertainment and the eclipse of visual education. She argues that we are increasingly communicating in images, as we have done historically in text, but a high-level visual education to accompany these advances is lacking.

“We are entering an era of ‘oral visual culture’, as the dominance of text recedes. ‘No longer pre-literate, we are post-literate,’ Stafford says. But she points out that the educational system is ‘image illiterate’. And she calls for the change to be led by art teachers. ‘Those of us with knowledge about techniques for making and understanding images, their construction and cognitive role throughout history, had better speak up now or be content to vanish into disciplinary extinction,’ she says.

“At a time when the English educational system is rethinking the national curriculum, this could be the perfect moment to overhaul the way we think about art in school. It is important to note that no one is arguing for maths or English to be downgraded, but simply stating that communication is evolving faster than education.”

“There are, however, other reasons to take the subject more seriously. Indeed, no essay demanding greater prominence for art in education would be complete without running through the well-rehearsed arguments of how important the creative industries are to this country’s economic success. Creative industries now employ more than 2 million people in the UK and this is forecast to grow. Schools need to keep up, say the sector’s advocates.”

“Marketing. Could there be a better example of how art is infinitely more important as a subject than it used to be? Imagine a modern, successful, multimillion-pound, cross-platform marketing campaign, conceived or consumed by anyone image-illiterate. Impossible.”

“But last term, the National Curriculum Review published its first draft programmes of study for English, maths and science. Art and music, it stated, will remain part of the primary curriculum, but it is not clear what status they will have in the secondary curriculum.”

However, in his proposed reform of Key Stage 4 exams, Education Secretary Michael Gove refers to “new qualifications in the core subject areas of English, mathematics, the sciences, history, geography and languages English Baccalaureate Certificates Success in English, maths, the sciences, a humanities subject and a language will mean that the student has the full English Baccalaureate.”

In a previous Blog post and Voice’s press statement, Senior Professional Officer (Education) Ian Toone said:

“Mr Gove said that ‘the GCSE was conceived and designed for a different age and a different world’ but his proposed replacement for it is from a different age and a different world that of the 1940s and the school leaving certificate!

“Describing such a narrow range of subjects as a ‘Baccalaureate’ devalues … the important academic subjects that will be excluded such as religious education, music, computer studies, ART etc.  A good general education needs to be broad, balanced and relevant, rather than narrow, restrictive and harking back to a golden age that didn’t actually exist.”

Where does the EBacc leave Art? Do let us know your thoughts…

Cultural Education Review highlights danger of narrow EBacc (February 2012)

Cultural Education Review highlights danger of narrow EBacc

28 Feb

Much has been written on this Blog about the "narrow and pointless" English Baccalaureate (EBacc), including a poll on the issue.

We have warned about the exclusion of subjects like ICT, RE, drama and music from this much-vaunted measure of supposedly "vital" "core subjects."

Now an independent review of Cultural Education in England has raised concerns that cultural education in England is "patchy". It warns that there is concern about how much the coalition government values cultural education in schools and highlights how this has been partly caused by the introduction of the EBacc.

Commenting on his review, Darren Henley, Managing Director of Classic FM, said:

"There is a good deal of concern expressed in much of the evidence that I have received during the course of undertaking this review about the extent to which the coalition government values cultural education in schools.

"The introduction of the English Baccalaureate is a significant contributory factor in causing these concerns."

Do you agree? Do let us know your thoughts

Poll: What do you think of the English Baccalaureate (EBac/EBacc)?

29 Jul

Do you agree with Voice General Secretary Philip Parkin that the English Baccalaureate is "narrow and pointless" or with the Commons Education Committee that it "should not have been introduced before the National Curriculum Review was completed", or with the DfE and Schools Minister Nick Gibb that “these academic subjects reflect the knowledge and skills young people need to progress to further study or to rewarding employment"?

Have your say on the EBac/Ebacc/E-Bac (opinions vary!) in our poll (right) and add your comments below

Poll result: What do you think of the English Baccalaureate (EBac/EBacc)? (29 July 24 August 2011)

  • It is useful and should continue in its present form: 13% (2 votes)
  • It should be revised to include more subjects that are currently excluded: 40% (6 votes)
  • It is pointless and should be abandoned: 47% (7 votes)

Flawed logic of EBacc

8 Jul

Commenting on statistics showing outcomes for 19-year-olds in England in 2010, Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

"These statistics underline the importance of studying the core academic subjects that make up the English Baccalaureate young people who achieve good grades in these subjects are more likely to go on to higher education and less likely to be NEET.

"Publishing information on EBacc attainment will increase the opportunities for all young people especially those in disadvantaged areas to study these vital subjects."

As with Michael Gove's recent speech on history and compulsory maths, the facts and statistics are being distorted, in the manner of a square peg into a round hole, in an attempt to support government propaganda.

"Publishing information on EBacc attainment will increase the opportunities "

How will publishing information whether those reading it are in "disadvantaged" or advantaged areas "increase opportunities"? Do 'Neets' "especially those in disadvantaged areas" eagerly await every batch of statistics from the Department for Education?

Aren't the "opportunities" already there? Couldn't these pupils study the Ebacc subjects if they wanted to?

As journalist Warwick Mansell points out: "Can you spot the flaw in Nick Gibb’s logic? Few people with EBacc subjects are NEET, therefore increasing EBacc take-up will decrease NEET."

Exactly. If pupils are persuaded to take up the EBacc "opportunities" they can't refuse, it could actually increase the number of Neets, not decrease them. If you take a subject for which you have no aptitude or inclination, and do badly in it, how will that increase your opportunities for further education or training?

As Warwick Mansell's Guardian article in January pointed out:

" the government's expectation that 'every pupil should have a broad education (the English baccalaureate)'". However, an "education department spokeswoman says: 'The EBac represents a core that we think all schools should be making available to their pupils. We do, however, recognise that the full range of EBacc will not be suitable for all pupils and that is why we have not made it compulsory. We recognise the wider benefits that studying other subjects and qualifications can bring and we will encourage all pupils to study non-English baccalaureate subjects alongside the core English baccalaureate in order to get a well-rounded education.'"

So is the English Bacc not "well-rounded" or is there a difference in the DfE's mind between "broad" and "well-rounded"?

Are these "vital subjects" or will "the full range of Ebacc" "not be suitable for all pupils"?

When the EBacc first came out, many university-educated journalists, educationalists and other commentators confessed that they would not have achieved the EBacc. Many pupils at the 'top' public schools so admired by ministers didn't achieve it either.

"English Baccalaureate subjects are: English, maths, geography or history, the sciences and a language."

The EBacc is an arbitrary target, as most pupils will find that their GCSE in ICT will be of more practical and economic use to them in the future than a GCSE in Ancient Greek, and yet it is the latter, rather than the former, which has been chosen for inclusion in the Bacc.

Students who would like to take Religious Education, English Literature or concentrate on a range of sciences, rather than a language, could also miss out on the Ebacc. Where does that leave the Doctors of Divinity or Science of the future?

Under the Education Act 2002 , the Secretary of State is required, in forming an opinion as to whether to implement any new project, to:

"have regard to the need for the curriculum for any school affected by the project to be a balanced and broadly based curriculum which promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of children and of society".

It is difficult to see how the EBacc meets this objective as it appears to be reducing a broad and balanced curriculum to five subjects, and ignoring RE and many other important subjects in the process.

Rather than trying to ram the narrow and pointless EBacc down the throats of reluctant students, the Government should look at how the whole assessment system could be transformed, with more teacher and ongoing assessment, a greater range and type of subjects on offer to inspire pupils and parity between the vocational and the academic.

New assessment and accountability measures. Updates: Statement on Primary Assessment, Progess 8 update

15 Nov

Update 1 / 15 November 2016:

Voice’s SATs survey (and written evidence to Commons Committee) Response from Nick Gibb MP

Update: 19 October 2016

October 2016: Written Statement on Primary Assessment 

Primary School Accountability Guidance (DfE)

Progress 8 Update

Update: 1 September 2016

Commenting on the latest Key Stage 2 assessment statistics, Martin Hodge, Professional Officer (Policy & Research Services), said:

“Voice is hugely impressed with the efforts that teachers and support staff have made to ensure that pupils the length and breadth of the country were not disadvantaged by the radical changes to the curriculum and assessment schedule imposed by the Government. 

“There were particular concerns around assessment of Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar (SPaG), yet this was consistently the highest scoring aspect of the test, with 63% achieving the expected level. 

“Anecdotal evidence from our members suggests that this could be due to the coaching of students.  After all, it is easier to coach children to achieve in a SPaG test, than the inference and deduction required in the reading test.  The disastrous results from the reading test can be directly associated with the difficulty of the paper – which was identified by school staff as substantially harder than the example paper which had been issued for practice.

“The results show remarkable similarities across the country, and although there are differences in achievement, these are relatively small and show that all children have been negatively impacted by these uncompromising tests. 

“The best performing region, London, with 57% of pupils achieving the expected standard, is only 8% higher than the worst performing areas.  There are ‘more extreme values’ between specific towns and boroughs, but there have been questions about the rigour with which some local authorities moderated the writing papers, with some being far more stringent and demanding than others.  This has doubtless contributed to the variance of grades, and some areas may have been disproportionately impacted. 

“We already knew that 47% of pupils failed to reach the expected standard – now we know that neither pupils in free schools nor sponsored academies performed any better than those in local authority maintained schools.  In fact, only those pupils from converter academies (formerly high-performing state schools) show any significant difference – and this is the same as has been seen in previous years.  Therefore it is disingenuous for Ministers to trumpet the success of the academies programme, as the results support no such claim. 

“Voice has further concerns, expressed by our members, that the curriculum is being narrowed by the focus on SATs and preparing children to take tests; this is in addition to the rise in anxiety and stress observed over the Spring and Summer terms. 

“Since academies do not have to conform to the balance of the National Curriculum, some of the breadth of the curriculum is being lost in the never-ending drive towards higher results.

“It is interesting to note the media storm around this statistical release.  It does add some meat onto the bones of the first release in July (see below) but does not really give any meaning to the results – how can it?  There is nothing to compare it to.”

Further information/downloads (DfE, 1 September 2016):


Update: 7 July, 31 August, 12 September 2016 

Progress 8 school performance measure in 2016, 2017 and 2018 (guidance) (September 2016)

Progress 8 update (7 July 2016)

Update: 5 July 2016

Education Secretary says results shouldn’t be compared (BBC).


Voice congratulates those children and schools who have achieved well in the SATs results published today, but we are aware that this is not the whole story.

Today’s results mark a new beginning.

There is nothing about the results released today which can be compared to the SAT results from before – the curriculum is different, the tests are different and the pupils are different.

The children who took the recent exams were tested against a curriculum which they had not been fully taught, and have been measured against standards which are more demanding than ever before.

Given that the full extent of the impact of the SATs will not be known until the progress data is released later this year, we find it worrying that so many children will be receiving information which only focuses on achievement, with the additional risk that schools and teachers may be measured against these first results.

Voice members have been particularly critical of the SATs this year, calling the whole system “a debacle” and with a significant number believing that SATs no longer have any value for schools. The only thing they prove is how well children can be prepared to take a test.

Anecdotal evidence does seem to suggest that high-stakes testing leads to a narrowing of the curriculum and an overwhelming of lessons with practice tests, which begs the question what do today’s results actually say?

Take part in our SATs survey.

Update: 7 June 2016

Letter from Education Secretary Nicky Morgan about Primary Floor Standards

Update: 3 June 2016

Information for parents: 2016 national curriculum test results at the end of key stage 1 (Standards & Testing Agency)

Update: 11 May 2016

SATs stress

Update:  3 May 2016

SATs “chaotic” while Government indulges in unhelpful “blame game”

Update: 27 April 2016

Take part in our SATs survey, designed to find out how SATs impact on pupils, teachers, support staff and school leaders.


Update: 22 April 2016

Following the ‘accidental publication’ online of a ‘live Key Stage 1 grammar, punctuation and spelling test’, the Department for Education (DfE) has ‘removed the requirement’ for schools to administer that test ‘for this year only’. Schools ‘will still need to submit a teacher assessment judgement based on pupils’ work in the classroom as has always been the case’.


Update: 8 March 2016

DfE: Clarification: key stage 1 and 2 teacher assessment and moderation guidance

Update: 4 March 2016








Letter in TES from General Secretary Deborah Lawson  (in  response to article in TES by Schools Minister Nick Gibb).

Update: 19 February 2016

Primary school teacher assessment deadline changed by DfE

Further information (DfE)

Update: 18 February 2016

SATs: General Secretary’s letter to Secretary of State Nicky Morgan


January 2016

New assessment and accountability measures

By Ian Toone, Director of Policy and Research Services

Summer 2016 will see new National Curriculum tests (‘SATs’) to mark the end of Key Stages 1 and 2 in primary schools, whilst, in secondary schools, the new Progress 8 measure will become the new high stakes accountability measure for performance at Key Stage 4.

The new National Curriculum, for which teaching first began in September 2014, will be assessed for the first time in May 2016 (although a number of schools will be selected to administer tests early in April in order to inform the standard setting process).

New tests at Key Stage 1 will comprise:

  • English reading (two papers);
  • English grammar, punctuation and spelling (two papers); and
  • Mathematics (two papers).

There will no longer be a test for English writing.

This new set of tests replaces previous tests and tasks, and so 2007 and 2009 test and task materials will no longer be valid for informing teacher assessment judgements.

Key Stage 2 tests will consist of:

  • English reading (three papers);
  • English grammar, punctuation and spelling (two papers); and
  • Mathematics (three papers).

The previous test in mental arithmetic will be replaced by an arithmetic test. There will be one set of tests for each subject and these will include a
small number of questions designed to assess the most able pupils, so separate tests will no longer be required.

Science tests at Key Stage 2 will be biennial, beginning in June 2016 with selected schools only. Participation is statutory for schools selected to
take part, and these science sampling tests will be administered by external administrators.

Sample test materials for all National Curriculum tests, and for both Key Stages, are available at:

Test outcomes will no longer be reported using National Curriculum levels of assessment, as these are now obsolete. Scaled scores will be used
instead, the expected standard being represented by a score of 100.

Although National Curriculum tests are designed to be as similar as possible from year to year, slight differences in diffi culty can occur, which is why
raw scores need to be converted into scaled scores in order to give reliable outcomes that can be meaningfully compared year on year.

Two ‘floor standards’ will be used as accountability measures:

  • 65% of children achieving the expected standard; and
  • pupils making sufficient progress, as measured by a new value-added measure of progress.

The Government has recently published a set of standards for pupils who are working above the current P (performance) scales but below the
standards of these new statutory tests. These recommendations stem from the Rochford Review and should allow for the progress and achievement of all children to be recognised.

Progress 8

For members teaching in secondary schools, summer 2016 will see the new Progress 8 measure being used as an accountability measure. This aims to capture the progress a pupil makes between the end of primary school and the end of Key Stage 4.

 It is a type of value-added measure, focusing on performance across eight subjects, including English and maths, three further EBacc (English
Baccalaureate) subjects, and three other subjects.

 Voice is very aware that outcomes based on such accountability measures are often used to inform appraisal objectives and to measure teacher
performance, with implications for pay progression and capability proceedings.

Any members who are affected by these issues should contact us for advice.

[Article written for January 2016 issue of the members’ magazine, Your Voice.]

Further information

Voice Official Response 2098 (2014): Performance descriptors for use in key stage 1 and 2 statutory teacher assessment for 2015 to 2016

Voice Official Response Official 2011 (2013): Primary assessment and accountability under the new national curriculum

Joint union press release on Primary national curriculum (2013)

Progress 8 (DfE):