Response to the English Baccalaureate Consultation


Leadership, Learning / Friday, December 7th, 2012

There will be many of the sceptics out there, and I am certainly a sceptic of the so-called consultation process for the new EBC’s, who will say why bother writing anything about the proposed changes….he will not listen.

Of course they are right, to a point.  I am not anywhere near arrogant enough to suppose he will consider my views.  My experience and position in school does give me some insight into what the secretary of state proposes and why I disagree with him but he choose to ignore a panel of real experts and disbanded the group. However futile it might be we need to stand up to the plans he is making.

This is why the action taken by the @headsroundtable needs our support and our contributions.  The planned action to be taken by @SLTChat this Sunday is one of our last opportunities to “voice” our concerns at the reckless, poorly considered and damaging proposals before the end of the pseudo consultation on Monday the 10th.

For what it is worth and in order for me to add my voice to the dissent, what follows are my viewpoints on each of the questions of the consultation.  Please feel free to add your comments below, tweet and forward on and build the dissent to a crescendo.

Do you agree that the new qualifications should be called English Baccalaureate Certificates?

I had to check that I hadn’t missed a question here that said, “Do you agree that we need a new qualification?”  Anyway… swiftly moving on.  I really do not care for what they are called if the overall structure and composition is so set completely at odds with what I belieive to be effective learning and assessment.  Why should I put any neuronal resources into approving a name when what it “is” is so abhorrent.  Simply calling a black pudding something more attractive is not going to induce me to eat it.

Can I please defer my answer to this question until I have worked out what I would like in the qualification.  I mean, who on Earth would seek to design something like this without setting out first what the purpose is and how it can be most effective……oh.

Do you agree that it will be possible to end tiering for the full range of subjects? Do you agree that EBCs should be assessed 100% by externally marked examinations?

No quite simply.  If the alternative is that some students sit the assessment and others are prevented because they do not fit the grade spread then no, why would I want to exclude students.  Why would I want to lead a system where students are grouped at year 9/10 by their ability to sit a paper by 16 or older.  Why would I create a system where students are pre-selected for the superbly patronisingly named Statement of Achievement?  This is the 11+ all over again but under the guise of comprehensive education.  This new qualification MUST be inclusive for all with the ability to achieve a range of grades, whatever they turn out to be.  The government already seem to be hell bent on denying students the ability to progress by norm referencing these grades to KS2 expected progression by KS4 – why are they insisting on twisting the knife and removing ANY encouragement for students to flourish under the caring support of a superb school?

Should the be 100% externally assessed?  No, schools should have a choice.  I quite like the IGCSE option to have coursework or not.  Here’s an idea – let’s trust teachers to make their mind up in the best interests of their students.  I know there is a minority of teachers who bend the rules of coursework so put procedures in place to ensure this doesn’t happen, or if it does, they get caught.  Why punish everyone for the actions of a few?

Actually, I would flip this argument around.  Why should I trust an exam board to be competent enough to mark my students work?  How many of us have sent scripts back with basic numeracy mistakes?  We pay enough for the service!  I say, let us keep some aspect of coursework so we can make sure the students get a fair deal from the boards!

Should our expectations be that EBCs take the same amount of curriculum time as the current GCSEs?

Ok, what goes then?  In the move to the EBacc being parachuted into the league tables we have seen the core component of a students curriculum raise up to around 80% of their timetable.  80%!  No wonder students are becoming more and more frustrated with their experience of school.  Why should students have to take subjects they enjoy out of the curriculum time?  Why should their ability to take sports, or God forbid, actually see their family in the evenings, suffer because someone wants them to spend more time doing a core curriculum.

What place the arts?  How can we ensure that we expose students to a range of experiences that might trigger a passion, become their life defining moment, light a fascination in the world that encourages them to be successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens (why have we got rid of these???)

Which examination aids do you consider necessary to allow students to fully demonstrate knowledge and skills?

Er, how can anyone FULLY demonstrate knowledge and skills in an exam? I know they are planning on 3 hour assessments but…really.  You can not have a single, one size 3 hour exam and hope to fully assess their knowledge and skills – this is why it is a ridiculous proposition.

Do you agree that we should place a particular emphasis on qualifications providing the best assurance of literacy and numeracy?

I agree that literacy and numeracy should be a part of our assessments and the removal of them was a backward step.  The GCSE’s had started to reverse this with the reintroduction of SPAG and questions, in science at least, of up to 6 marks that required students to understand question stems. We are starting to get this working again so a change for this sake is not needed.

How can awarding organisations eliminate any unnecessary burdens on schools relating to the administration of EBCs?

Are they going ahead then?  What are you asking me for?  Am I supposed to be grateful that you are now pretending to want to help the school deal with the burden?  The answer to this question is really easy – don’t bring such rubbish in.  If it is a qualification that EXPERTS appreciate and celebrate then,  I am pretty confident about this next statement, we will see it as a pleasure to administer – not a burden.

Which groups of students do you think would benefit from a ‘statement of achievement’ provided by their school?

No-one.  Not students, parents, employers or the teachers who would, no doubt, be shaking with shame if they ever had to write such garbage.

Do you believe any of the proposals have the potential to have a disproportionate impact on specific pupil groups?

Yes, anyone who is not interested in science, history, geography or sitting 3 hour exams with no prospect of reward because their only chance of getting a grade above expectation is if their peers stuff up their papers and we end up with smaller groups of students at the various grade boundaries. What a ridiculous question, As if anyone in the department cares if it is a kind thing to do.

Should we introduce reformed qualifications in all six English Baccalaureate subjects for first teaching in 2015?

Well if you believe it is the right thing to do for some subjects then why not – why insist on this reckless pace of change that is so impatient that the other subjects do not have time to produce their own programmes. The only message we can get from this is it is not the change to qualification or award that matters but the change per se.

Should all languages in which there is currently a GCSE be included in our competition?

Surely a language is a language – why wouldn’t it be included in the “comp..” no, cannot bring myself to repeat that word in conjunction with curriculum design.

I tried really hard to be honest and objective so forgive me if I dropped into moments of anger of frustration.  If you really believe this is a terrible move for our system then RT, comment, jump up and down but make sure you do something.

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