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.

Educational excellence everywhere? (updated)

6 May

Update: 6 May 2016

Voice welcomes government climbdown on academies

DfE announces policy changes


21 April 2016

Educational excellence everywhere?

By General Secretary Deborah Lawson

The Government’s White Paper Educational excellence everywhere is a blueprint for education for the next five years.

It outlines a radical vision, including:

  • teacher recruitment and retention;
  • growing school leaders;
  • further reduction of local authority responsibility;
  • governance;
  • a national funding formula; and
  • all state-funded schools to become academies, or have an academy order, by 2020.

The paper sets a clear direction and pace of change. What it does not include is detail, and the devil, as we know, is always in the detail. Too much detail would inhibit contribution by the profession to the development of that detail. However, in this form, without any previous consultation with the profession or the unions, the paper provides just enough information to cause widespread alarm and contention that distracts from any more favorable elements it may contain.

It is clear from the reactions of the profession, national and local politicians on both sides of the political divide, academics and other stakeholders, that alarm bells are ringing loud and clear; alarm bells the Government would do well to listen to, carefully.


Change is controversial, and the proposed changes are controversial. The most contentious is the universal academisation of all state schools.

The Government has long held the ambition for all schools to become academies, but until now there has been some element of choice, unless a school was failing or required improvement.

The White Paper moves the academy programme to a final phase, one that is galvanising the profession to oppose it, especially when, as the Commons Education Committee found, there is no clear evidence to show that academies raise standards overall. The Committee had urged the DfE to be ‘less defensive and more open about its implementation programme, and review the lessons of the rapid conversion of secondary schools to inform future expansion’.

The Government, however, seems to be preoccupied with systems and structures in its race to achieve a higher PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) ranking. This preoccupation distracts from what really matters – the content of education – and demonstrates that Ministers have paid little attention to the Committee and haven’t considered the resource implications for local authority schools – especially small primary schools – that are good or outstanding , of being forced to become an academy for little, if any, discernable benefit.

‘Great teachers’

There is some good news. ‘Educational excellence everywhere’ is an admirable aspiration and one to be supported.

Chapter 2: ‘Great teachers – everywhere they’re needed’ looks at recruitment and retention. It is a mixed bag of proposals.

There is recognition of the cost incurred recruiting teachers, with a promise of teacher vacancy website.

Reform of initial teacher training content and delivery has promise, but does not address the very real issue of recruitment and retention of teachers being experienced now.

More contentious is the replacement of Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) with a supposedly stronger, more challenging accreditation based on a teacher’s effectiveness. The aim is to raise the quality and status of the teaching profession. In the short term, this could be counter-productive, putting off prospective teachers until there is clarity on what is to be expected of teachers in the future.

Standards for CPD are being developed, but the question remains about resourcing and how much and how frequently.

‘Great leaders’

Chapter 3: ‘Great leaders running our schools and at the heart of our system’ proposes an ‘improvement period’, or Ofsted ‘holiday’, to encourage heads to take on challenging schools.

This has potential to prevent the ‘helicopter head’ or ‘football manager’ approach and recognises not only that it takes time to turn a struggling school around, but that failure to deliver a turnaround in a very limited time does not encourage teachers into leadership roles or benefit pupils.

This, along with the National Teaching Service and the launch of the Excellence in Leadership Fund, indicates some improvement for heads, which will be required if there are to be sufficient effective leaders accountable for a self-improving system.

Chapter 4: ‘A school-led system’

Here we find the most contentious issues, including building capacity of academy sponsors and multi-academy trusts (MATs), ‘coasting’ schools, the position of local authorities and, of course, that all schools will become an academy.

Chapter 5: ‘Preventing underperformance… school-led improvement ‘

This moves responsibility for school improvement from local authorities to school system leaders, giving ‘choice’ to schools to support ongoing improvement based on sound evidence.

Chapter 6: ‘High expectations and a world-leading curriculum for all’

More contention here around primary assessment and the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) but with the promise of more support to teachers to deliver a stretching curriculum and reform of the alternative provision (AP) system so that mainstream schools remain accountable for the education of pupils in AP.

Chapter 7: ‘Fair, stretching accountability, ambitious for every child’

This looks to embed reforms which focus on progress of pupils, with Ofsted to focus on underperformance and consult on removing graded judgements on quality of teaching, learning and assessment ‘to help clarify that the focus of inspection is on outcomes and to reduce burdens on schools and teachers’.

Balance of power

As I have said, the positive aspects are overshadowed by the far-reaching implications of compulsory academisation. In the worst case scenario, this could be the final death knell for national pay and conditions and the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD).

The Secretary of State claims to want to break schools ‘free’ from the shackles of bureaucracy, to raise standards, but in doing so appears to have little regard for local democracy or accountability.

One should not take precedence over the other, but a balance could, and should, be achieved. The demise of local authorities and the rise of Regional Schools Commissioners moves responsibility to the latter; the difference being that RSCs are not democratically accountable to their communities and, given the size of the areas they cover, that would an impossible task. This calls into question the capacity of RSCs to take on a role that previously some local authorities, with all their resources, struggled with.

Forcing all schools to become academies is not the silver bullet which will deliver the outcomes the Government is seeking, especially in such a short space of time.

There is only one group who can do that – education professionals – teachers, school leaders and the wider education team. After many years of being ‘done to’, the profession is tired and weary of yet more change, especially change which ignores their repeated entreaties to government to listen to them.

Voice has long been against the rapid academisation of schools and although we welcome the Government’s vision for educational excellence everywhere, we are unable to support the compulsory conversion of all schools into academies, given the lack of evidence available to demonstrate the worth of such a programme.*

Have your say below…

Further information

Voice’s news release (March 2016)

*Voice’s policy paper on academies (April 2016)

General Secretary’s article on the White Paper in SecEd, 21 April 2016

Budget 2016 

 The White Paper (March 2016)

DfE’s press Notice (17 March 2016)

Your views

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