Will the review of cultural education lead to a widening of the E-Bacc?

Francis Gilbert's picture


It's the last day to provide evidence for the government's review of cultural education conducted by Darren Henley, but there's a general feeling in the profession that even if Henley recommends a broader and more balanced curriculum, his recommendations will be ignored. The government seems determined not to widen the English Baccalaureate, despite the consequences this is already having in schools. Henley seems to have listened to a wide range of teachers but not many "insiders" believe that non-E Bacc subjects (any subject which are not English, Maths, Sciences, Modern Languages and Humanities) will be given much consideration at the Department for Education.

A survey, conducted this March by the National Society for Education in Art & Design (NSEAD), reveals that pupils are deserting Art and Design subjects in their droves. Half the teachers in the survey said that the numbers of pupils doing Art and Design have reduced. One teacher said that while last year 130 pupils took the subject, now only 52 pupils are doing it. In another school, numbers were down from 90 to 30. Others reported that the pupils taking Art and Design subjects at GCSE level had halved.

Teachers expressed concern that Gifted and Talented students are not taking the subject anymore. Four in ten schools are reducing the numbers of staff involved with the subjects; both technicians and teachers.

Despite the fact that questions were asked in the House of Commons about this survey, the government appear intransigent. John Steers, the General Secretary for NSEAD told me: “I’m extremely concerned on behalf of the society at the rapidity of the unjustified changes that are taking place in schools as a direct consequence of the introduction of the Ebacc.” John Steers wrote an excellent letter to Michael Gove last December expressing his concerns but it doesn’t appear that his worries have been considered much: Gove has no plans to introduce the Arts and Design subjects into the English Baccalaureate.

This is deeply troubling because it means that our children are going to have a much narrower education than in previous years. We are campaigning on this issue, please look here if you want to learn more.
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Andy Smithers's picture
Fri, 20/05/2011 - 18:18

The E-Bacc is meant to be the core academic curriculum only and both pupils and schools are free to teach all other subjects and offer these as options.
Most secondary school children take 8 to 10 subjects which leaves a tremendous amount of choice in addition to the core subjects.
Any school which is unable to offer the E-Bacc as part of it's everyday curriculum with little need to change it's current offering needs to be able to explain why not? Has it been avoiding these subjects for a reason ?
No-one is stopping schools from offering all the other subjects they currently do, there just has to a change of emphasis. Pupils can still sit the same number of GCSEs or vocational courses they wish.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Sat, 21/05/2011 - 11:16

I thought you were keen on more choice in schools, Andy :)

Ian Taylor's picture
Sat, 21/05/2011 - 12:22

Andy, at first sight it looks as though students have scope for adding lots of other option subjects to their EBacc core. However, although English, maths, science, language, and a humanity, seem to be 5 subjects, the science has to be at least double science (and triple science is encouraged for academic students), and English is almost always English Language plus English Literature for able students. This makes 7 subjects, or 8 subjects for students taking triple science. If, as you say, most children take 8 to 10 subjects, there is little time left for additional options. Not a "tremendous amount of choice".

Andy Smithers's picture
Sat, 21/05/2011 - 14:41

I am all for choice but see no problem with a key set of core academic subjects.
I feel it is about right in achieving that.

I do not understand why you would want to broaden it as this would obviously reduce choice and actually restrict the curriculum.

Sophie Leach's picture
Mon, 23/05/2011 - 08:02

The I-Bacc is successful for the very reason it is both rigorous and encourages a broad and balanced curriculum. The E-Bac, with it's focus on a very prescriptive set of subjects at such a young age (14-16), will not provide a range of knowledge ,skills and experience and will limit choice of study at A Level and beyond.

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