Schools need to sign up to the #ModBac curriculum now! It's aspirational, inclusive, personalised, student-centred and motivating...

Francis Gilbert's picture
We all have to admit it; the current exam system does not prepare students properly for 21st century; it’s almost entirely structured around dubious assessments of children’s writing in silence on bits of paper, and does not embrace the sorts of skills people need in this fast-changing world. Michael Gove’s solution is to introduce more “do or die” exams, cut back on the modules and re-takes that have dominated school life at the secondary level for the last decade, and assess schools’ performance based on what he calls the English Baccalaureate: GCSEs in English, Maths, Modern Foreign Languages, Sciences, and Humanities. As has been pointed out many times on the Local Schools Network, this isn’t going to foster the key skills that our children need: problem-solving, initiative, creative thinking, public speaking and communication skills, ICT skills to name a few.

Andrew Chubb, the enterprising head of the Archbishop Sentamu Academy in Hull, thinks he’s come up with a solution which will please both Govian traditionalists and more progressive educationalists. Chubb and his team are calling it the Modern Baccalaureate or the ModBac. He told me: “We wanted to set up a qualification which gives accreditation to a set of skills that most schools are currently developing in their students but are not getting recognition at the moment. We want to motivate students to enrich their lives by developing their independent learning and outside interests, and give recognition to talents and achievements that are not normally accredited.”

Although the ModBac has only been running a couple of years, it has already garnered some heavy weight support from serious educationalists such as Guy Claxton, Mick Waters, Tim Brighouse and Sir Mike Tomlinson. The ModBac can assess students from 5-19 years old, and fits international best practice including the recent European Credit Transfer System (ECVET) to enable qualifications to be acceptable across 27 member state countries and is increasingly being taken up as a model as far afield as Australia. One of the really nifty things about the ModBac is that it is built around serious teacher assessment. Printed on a students’ certificate of attainment is a QR code which, when scanned, provides a verifiable record of an individual learner’s competencies, capabilities and strengths, as well as an overview of academic or vocational performance. Students achieve can achieve a core award which goes from pass to starred distinction pass at the various levels, and are awarded “Enrichment Honours” (recognition for extra-curricula activities) and “Employment Skills” accreditation as well. An outline of the ModBac's structure can be found here and a helpful diagram can be found here.

Twenty nine schools have already signed up to it but it looks like this is going to be a very popular qualification system for two key reasons. First, it is genuinely broad and balanced, pupils with academic and vocational aptitudes can take it. I really can’t see why even the most die-hard “traditionalist” like the Tory MP Nick Gibb could object to it; the ModBac nurtures specific subject knowledge AND “softer skills”. Equally, more progressive thinkers like Guy Claxton have seen its great value in accrediting and developing “learning power” in students. Second, it is cheap and easy to administer. In his excellent book, Thinking Allowed On Schooling, which I have commented upon here, Mick Waters writes possibly the best summary of the ModBac’s virtues. He says that it is designed to be (p. 260):

  • Highly aspirational as it is not a ‘single threshold’ award, so the achievements of the highest achieving children are fully recognised. In this way, the ModBac can help raise aspiration and attainment in all subjects, including those specifically included in the EBacc.

  • Inclusive because even the lowest attaining students can aim for the award at entry or foundation level.

  • Personalised as it caters for the interests and passions of all students, building character and resilience both in and beyond the classroom.

  • Motivating through recognition and reward. Motivation is probably the most significant factor in the level of attainment outcome.

  • Driven by students through their own online portfolio and interface.

  • A much broader profile of achievement than simply a qualification transcript, including a ‘skills passport’ (which encourages children to develop and apply life skills) and to become ‘learning ready’ for Key Stage 5 for life

  • Acceptable across Europe and the rest of the world, taking into account the fact that qualifications are becoming increasingly globalised as communication technologies and work mobility advance.”

I think schools should sign up to the ModBac; it offers a much richer, broader, more aspirational and motivating curriculum than the narrower EBacc or TechBacc, and yet its beauty is that it can incorporate these two qualifications as well. Looks like a winner to me!

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