South West London schools in major GCSE shake-up


The government’s introduction of the English Baccalaureate uhas generated a ‘mainly negative response’ from teachers and academics.


By Joel Durston

South West London secondary schools are in the middle of a major shake-up of subjects taught at GCSE level.

This is largely because of the coalition government’s introduction of the English Baccalaureate – commonly referred to as the ‘Ebacc’.

In 2010, 22% took the Ebacc; the following year it was 33% and this year it is an estimated 47%.

To attain the qualification pupils must achieve GCSE C grades in Mathematics, English, a foreign language (including Latin or ancient Greek) and History or Geography.

This system is modelled on well-regarded continental educational systems such as France’s and aims to give all pupils a well-rounded education.

It also intends to close the attainment gap between wealthier and poorer children, but an Education Committee inquiry into the English Baccalaureate found no evidence to support this.

The committee’s chair, Conservative MP Graham Stuart, said the Ebacc has generated a “mainly negative response” from teachers and academics.

Detractors claim the Ebacc, which implicitly prioritises certain subjects, contradicts Prime Minister David Cameron’s stated policy to give schools more independence in the belief that “every child is different with different interests and different talents”.

The Guardian’s Mike Baker asks why teachers aren’t granted the same professional expertise as doctors and lawyers, when there would be, understandably, outcry if politicians suggested which treatments doctors should prescribe or how lawyers should handle cases.

Many in education welcome the change, arguing among other things that it is based on a strong educational model and it prioritises ‘more important’ subjects.

But many teachers of ‘minority’ subjects in particular are up in arms about the Ebacc, because their exclusion from it may mean teaching and pupil uptake for the subjects will diminish as schools look for good league table rankings.

James Thompson, an RE teacher from a local school going under a pseudonym, said: “All of us in our department feel strongly that it undermines our very important subject.

“And, in general, the Ebacc takes away schools’ ability to tailor the subjects they offer to the needs of their pupils.”

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