What Happened? Round-up of EBacc-EBC-8-Best Announcements

7th February 2013

In a short Parliamentary announcement today rather a lot was said. As the smoke clears I’m sure more will come to light and in time proper comment will be provided.

But until then: What happened?!


EBCs were proposed as a GCSE-replacement for the EBacc subjects. Gove had said they would be ‘more rigorous’, not involve coursework, be single tier and be delivered by a single exam board. The idea was roundly panned – by us in a blog here and an article for Teach First here, by an Education Select Committee Report, and by pretty much everyone else in-between.

Gove said today he will NOT be creating a new qualification called EBCs. And he will not be moving ahead with the single exam board idea. Huzzah.

Instead: Changes to GCSEs

All GCSEs will instead need to become ‘more rigorous’. Gove also still wants single-tier exams. He has written to Ofqual asking them to ‘consider’ ways exams can be made more robust and how the Department can work with Ofqual to ensure a single-tier approach can be best achieved. Note the language of the letter: much of it is about finding solutions rather than making demands. That difference is important and it is a welcome change from the man who sat in an Education Select Committee claiming he would ignore Ofqual if he so wished.

The Draft National Curriculum

After months of speculation – it is out.

There is also a consultation document on the framework here, and you have until May to send in a response.

You may notice much of the new curriculum looks like the ‘contents’ page in the current 2007 National Curriculum subjects. If not, your subject will most likely look like the 2002 one. Gove has turned the clock back but only a bit. All subjects previously included in the National Curriculum have remained, including Citizenship (meaning the ridiculous arguments of ‘Footnote 57’ were ignored – again, huzzah)

For a Curriculum presented as fact-based, specific and all about the ‘core knowledge’ some parts are surprisingly vague. A personal favourite is the bit proclaiming that KS3 pupils must be “encouraged to develop a love of cooking”. I looked into the margin at that point, half-expecting to see a beaming thumbs-up Jamie Oliver emoticon but was then immediately distracted by the next line which said that students must be taught a “repertoire of savoury dishes”.

Concerns have also been raised about the ‘story-of-these-islands’ approach to History outlined in the new NC. This means all pre 17th Century stuff, usually the least well known stuff, will be taught in primary school by non-specialists. It also appears to mean that GCSE History will be based on events entirely after WWII. I’m guessing that distant sound you can hear is a million quills flapping as Historical Association members angrily pen their responses.

Still, it’s one to ponder over. No curriculum is ever perfect.

The ‘8 Best’ Measure

Changes to the accountability measure are laid out in the ‘Accountability Consultation’

In essence: We all know that measuring the number of students passing 5 A*-C GCSEs is inadequate for understanding how good a school is. Gove is therefore proposing moving to a focus a ‘best 8’ measure where the ‘average point score’ of students ‘best 8’ GCSEs will become the headline school performance figure. The 8 must include English & Maths, 3 EBacc subjects (e.g. 3 sciences, or – say – geography, history and a Foreign Language), and 3 others. While the ‘EBacc‘ in full (i.e. Eng, Maths, Sci, Foreign Language & Geog/Hist) will still be published, it effectively becomes much less important. If a student is doing double science (as most do) then as long as they do ONE of history, geography OR Foreign Language then they would meet the ‘best 8’ measure.

The score is also a ‘progress’ measure and should account for students’ progress from KS2. I’m unclear on the details on how this will happen (too distracted by the cooking curriculum clearly) but I’m sure it will be endlessly unpicked over the next few years, so I’ll  let others get into the finer detail.

Other Stuff

There is some other tricky stuff buried in these documents about data collection, languages, etc, but the main points are really the ones above and on first understanding they all seem rather sensible. Gove is perhaps not in as much of a rush as many of us first thought and coherence, as we were always told, might just be coming at the end of the process. Hmmm, let’s wait and see.

Now that the dust has (somewhat) settled, Loic has written a follow up post exploring the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ of the reforms…