Send it bac to the drawing board ASAP

7th October 2011 at 01:00

The problem with both the English Baccalaureate and the modern baccalaureate ("Mr Burnham seeks clear blue water with his type of Bac", 30 September) is that these Bac-lite schemes are not baccalaureates (dictionary definition: "examination" or "set of examinations").

The EBac is narrow and pointless. Its name suggests that it is an actual programme of study, like the challenging International Baccalaureate. Instead, if you have some GCSEs, you will get another piece of paper to wrap the certificates in - no extra work involved. The Commons education select committee concluded that: "We do not believe the EBac - the hybrid of a certificate and a performance measure, named after a qualification - is appropriately labelled: it is not a baccalaureate, and as it stands the name can therefore be misleading to parents, professionals and pupils."

It seems that shadow education secretary Andy Burnham's "modern baccalaureate" is simply a broader and more comprehensive EBac - a sort of EBac Extra - and therefore also not a baccalaureate. Mr Burnham was right to say in his Labour party conference speech: "It's indefensible that Latin is promoted above ICT, engineering, business studies or economics in the English Bac. It's indefensible that creative subjects don't feature." However, like the EBac it apes, his modern baccalaureate seems to be a repetitious piece of paper that will not have any meaning for further and higher education providers or employers.

Students should be able to take a broad range of subjects. However, prescribing what they should study, whether as a "core" or in total, can be restrictive. A truly broad and balanced curriculum needs to be appropriate to individual pupils' abilities and aspirations.

Rather than sticking fancy labels on pre-existing qualifications and achievements, both education secretary Michael Gove and his shadow should be looking at how the whole assessment system could be transformed, with more teacher and ongoing assessment, a greater range and type of subjects on offer to inspire pupils, and parity between the vocational and the academic.

Philip Parkin, General secretary, Voice.

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