Poorest more likely to be excluded than achieve an EBacc

Teacher trainer Teach First voices concern over the education of children from disadvantaged backgrounds

John Roberts

Russell Hobby of Teach First

Poorer pupils stand more chance of being excluded than they do of passing the GCSEs needed for the English Baccalaureate, analysis by Teach First suggests.

The teacher training charity found that more pupils on free school meals were given temporary or permanent exclusions last year (10.7 per cent) than achieved the EBacc with at least grade 4s (10.3 per cent).

The EBacc is a performance measure created by the government that requires good GCSE grades in English, maths, a science, a language and either history or geography.

Russell Hobby, Teach First chief executive, said: “Exclusion is the hotly debated topic in education right now and whatever your opinions towards the EBacc, there is no denying that the subjects within it are highly valued by top universities.  

 "So with higher rates of exclusion and lower GCSE attainment, it’s a real cause for concern that poorer young people appear to lack the support and guidance they need to succeed through school, to keep their options open and to meet their aspirations.

Talented teachers 'needed for poor communities'

“We need all young people to have access to the same high standards of education, regardless of their background or family income.  

 “With the next generation facing an uncertain future ahead, we need many more talented people to take up the challenge of teaching in disadvantaged communities.” 

Supporters of the EBacc say it has boosted the uptake of core academic subjects at GCSE and it improves pupils’ chances of going to top universities.

However, critics of the measure introduced by former education secretary Michael Gove say it has led to a damaging decline in other subjects – such as the arts – which have not been included in it.

The government’s target is for 90 per cent of pupils to be achieving this standard by 2025.  

Currently, around a quarter of pupils achieve the EBacc – but only one in 10 of children eligible for free school meals.

Pupils on free school meals are three times more likely to be excluded than other students – with 44,000 experiencing a fixed-term or permanent exclusion in 2016-17.

Last week Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that the drop in the numbers of students taking languages and humanities at A level this year was a  terrible indictment on the impact of the EBacc. 

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "Our priority is to make sure that all students, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to go as far as their talents will take them.

"We are seeing increasing numbers of disadvantaged pupils taking the EBacc and the attainment gap between pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and their more affluent peers has shrunk at various levels - 14 per cent in the early years, 10 per cent at age seven and 10 per cent at GCSE level.

“The Teach First conclusions are flawed as EBacc performance and exclusions rates are not directly comparable in this way.

“While we know that there has been an increase in exclusions, there are still fewer than the peak ten years ago. We are clear that exclusions should only ever be used as a last resort and have launched an externally led review to look at how they are used and why certain groups are disproportionally affected.”


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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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