The Ebacc: a consultation or Hobson’s Choice?

Bill Watkin, Operational Director SSAT, writes…

On Tuesday, the DfE launched the long awaited consultation on the implementation of the Ebacc.

Officials were aware of the strength of feeling and the concerns expressed by school leaders. My earlier blogs on the subject and SSAT’s national survey explained the situation and left no room for doubt.

  1. Schools risked losing their outstanding status, whatever course of action they chose
  2. The self-improving system would struggle with fewer teaching schools and NLEs
  3. Recruitment and retention difficulties would be exacerbated
  4. Non-Ebacc subjects would be reduced or cut
  5. Vocational learning would be devalued

After our survey, reports, blogs and meetings, it seems that there has been some movement.

Although Nicky Morgan has set an aspirational target of 90%, she does add that this is what she would like to see “in time”. So not necessarily the first cohort (the current Y7).

On the other hand, she says that “In order to achieve the national expectation that at least 90% of pupils are entered for the Ebacc, many schools will need to enter significantly more than 90% of their pupils.”

So which pupils should be entered for the Ebacc and which should be exempt?

The consultation tells us that the full Ebacc will remain inappropriate for a small minority of pupils.

Perhaps those

  • with complex special educational needs
  • who have spent a long time out of education
  • who are recent arrivals to the country
  • who need significant additional time for English and mathematics.

Non-entry will need to be considered on a case by case basis. Schools should be able to determine which pupils make up the small minority for whom taking the whole Ebacc is not appropriate.

In making decisions about Ebacc entry, schools should consider the overall impact that Ebacc entry might have on pupil performance and progression to post-16 education.

ebacc-nov-2015-consultation-300As well as the school academic co-ordinator, decisions could involve the views of the pupil, parents and other relevant members of staff such as the Senco.

The decision not to enter a pupil for the EBacc should be a positive decision.

And what if you do not make 90% take the Ebacc? The original manifesto pledge stated that Ofsted would not be able to award its top ratings to such schools.

Nick Gibb, Minister for Schools, confirmed in the summer that this meant that schools could not be judged outstanding.

But the consultation shows a somewhat diluted approach:

“EBacc entry and attainment will be given a more prominent role in the Ofsted inspection framework, although, as now, no single measure will determine the outcome of an inspection.”

The consultation questions (which should be read in conjunction with the consultation document) are here:

DfE proposes that the Ebacc becomes the default option for all pupils, but that schools should be able to determine the small minority of pupils for whom taking the whole Ebacc is not appropriate.

  1. What factors do you consider should be taken into account in making decisions about which pupils should not be entered for the Ebacc?
  2. Is there any other information that should be made available about schools’ performance in the Ebacc?
  3. How should this policy apply to UTCs, studio schools and further education colleges teaching key stage 4 pupils?
  4. What challenges have schools experienced in teacher recruitment to Ebacc subjects?
  5. What strategies have schools found useful in attracting and retaining staff in these subjects?
  6. What approaches do schools intend to take to manage challenges relating to the teaching of Ebacc subjects?
  7. Other than teacher recruitment, what other issues will schools need to consider when planning for increasing the number of pupils taking the Ebacc?
  8. What additional central strategies would schools like to see in place for recruiting and training teachers in Ebacc subjects?
  9. Do you think that any of the proposals have the potential to have an impact, positive or negative, on specific pupils, in particular those with ‘relevant protected characteristics’? (The relevant protected characteristics are disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.) Please provide evidence to support your response.
  10. How could any adverse impact be reduced to better advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a protected characteristic and those who do not share it? Please provide evidence to support your response.

The consultation closes on 29 January 2016, 5:00pm.

You can respond online, or complete a response form and email to or write to:

Maleck Boodoo
Curriculum and Standards Division
Department for Education
Great Smith Street

Do please respond!

Relevant links

Get involved in the #Ebacc conversation on Twitter.

Follow Bill on Twitter: @billwatkin

Follow SSAT on Twitter: @SSAT

Like SSAT on Facebook.

Read more blogs by Bill.

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