‘A broader Baccalaureate is an engine for social mobility’, says Edge Chair, Lord Kenneth Baker

Lord Kenneth Baker talks about the Ebacc and how it has reduced opportunities for children to study the arts. 

The government’s English Baccalaureate (Ebacc) is a missed opportunity to fulfil the Prime Minister’s own vision for social mobility and equip our children with the skills they need in the 21st century economy,  says Lord Kenneth Baker, chair of education charity the Edge Foundation, in a new report launched today, (Wednesday 28 September).

14-19 Education: A New Baccalaureate, the former Education Secretary says:‘There is a correlation between affluence and academic success. I wish it were not so, but wishful thinking will not solve the problems of deprivation, and nor will the EBacc, in its current form. Our workforce needs a new set of skills, including expertise in emerging technologies. This narrow academic curriculum is regressive and will severely limit learning of the technical and creative subjects we desperately need in our new digital age.’ 

The government wants 90% of children to study this suite of seven academic subjects, almost exactly the same curriculum set in 1904. On average, students are entered for 8.1 GCSE exams, leaving very limited space for anything other than this narrow academic diet. Ironically, students with low attainment, the very group most likely to be disengaged, are typically entered for 6.9 exams, so the narrow EBacc would become their entire curriculum.

The EBacc allows very little room to study subjects such as Design and Technology, computing, art or music – the very subjects that give young people the creative and technical skills that will be most in demand from employers. Design and Technology entries have fallen 27% in five years and these subjects could be in danger of being lost from the curriculum altogether, closing down opportunities for young people, the charity warns.

Lord Baker added: ‘With hindsight, I now wish I had ended the National Curriculum at 14. This narrow-minded view persists that ‘technical’ and ‘vocational’ forms of education are for those who fail to achieve academically; in reality, the countries with the lowest youth unemployment and the most highly skilled workforce are those where technical subjects are studied side by side with academic subjects. In my vision for 2025,  all students would follow a single, coherent 14-19 framework leading to a leaving diploma recognising the full range of academic and technical achievement including GCSEs, A-levels and technical qualifications.’

The Edge Foundation is calling on the Government to broaden the EBacc into a new Baccalaureate that includes opportunities for computer science, creative and technical subjects, saying all young people should have the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

Commenting on Edge’s proposals, Chair of the Working Group for 14-19 Reform, Sir Mike Tomlinson, said: ‘These proposals deserve to be taken very seriously if we are to have an education system which truly caters for all students whatever their talents. Such a system must recognise that a good education is more than just a collection of qualifications. It is a springboard for all young people to take their place with confidence in an ever-changing employment scene. If this to happen, then a high quality technical education has to be available as part of a baccalaureate structure which recognises all aspects of a good, rounded education.’

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter. ~ Sophie

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  1. CathPrisk

    Robt_Hill I’m ranting at daftness of grammar schools & agree with Lord Baker (same Baker as General Ed Reform Bill 88??)

  2. I agree with Lord Baker that pupils deserve a broad curriculum.  But it should end at 16, not 14.   That’s what happens in most developed countries where upper secondary generally begins at 15/16.  There are also far fewer exams at the end of lower secondary.  Where they exist, they are confined to a few subjects and are not used to judge schools.  Their purpose is to decide post-lower secondary progression.
    That said, there is an argument to made for generic work-related education from at least age 14 which comprises high-quality generic vocational education, PSHE and careers education and guidance (CEG).  This was the aim behind the Technical and Vocational Educational Initiative (TVEI) launched by Lord Baker when he was education secretary.  It did much to raise the profile of generic vocational education work experience and CEG.

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