Exclusive: Vast majority of heads oppose 90 per cent EBacc plan

Delay in the publication of results of government consultation is causing uncertainty for schools, warn campaigners

Eleanor Busby

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More than four-fifths of school leaders are against government plans to make 90 per cent of pupils take the English Baccalaureate, a new survey shows.

The research comes after TES revealed last week that the results of the government’s EBacc consultation – which closed a year ago this month – may not now be published until the summer.

But amid the significant delays in releasing the findings, the opposition to the performance measure remains as strong as ever.

A new survey from the NAHT headteachers’ union, shared exclusively with TES, reveals that 93 per cent of secondary leaders believe that the EBacc should not be compulsory.

Meanwhile, 86 per cent of heads oppose the government’s aim for 90 per cent of pupils to be studying EBacc subjects – English, mathematics, history or geography, the sciences and a language.

An email from Conservative MP Heidi Allen’s office last week suggested that the EBacc consultation report may not be published for another six months – more than a year after it was due – because of a huge amount of responses. 

Tim Leunig, chief scientific adviser and chief analyst at the Department for Education (DfE), previously said that it had received more than 2,700 responses.

Leading education figures and campaigners are calling on the DfE to urgently release the consultation report to provide clarity, especially for schools which run three-year GCSE courses and whose pupils will need to choose their options this month.

'A planning headache for schools'

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, said: “Too many policies have been slow in implementation, which creates a real planning headache in schools. We are still waiting for the results of the EBacc consultation. Can it be because the results are fairly unpalatable to the government?”

He added: “It is wrong to set an arbitrary target for an arbitrary selection of subjects. It is self-defeating to demand this without ensuring an adequate supply of qualified specialist subject teachers to deliver this curriculum.”

Campaigners want the government to release the findings to ensure that arts subjects are not sidelined any further. Deborah Annetts, founder of the Bacc for the Future campaign, supported by more than 200 organisations, said: “The continuing uncertainty around the EBacc is damaging the uptake of creative subjects like music, art and design.”

As the delay continues, opponents are hopeful that the unpopular plans could be dropped. Ms Annetts added: “We hope [it] means the education secretary is listening to the near-universal opposition to the EBacc, not only from headteachers but also from the creative industries.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “We expect all schools to offer options outside the EBacc, so that pupils have the opportunity to study subjects that reflect their own individual interests and strengths. We are carefully considering all contributions to the consultation and will publish our response in due course.”

This is an edited article from the 13 January edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click hereTES magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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