Why north Essex headteachers think Michael Gove is wrong about the English Baccalaureate (From Essex County Standard)
Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting ECS to 80360, or email »
Why north Essex headteachers think Michael Gove is wrong about the English Baccalaureate
Manningtree High School’s headteacher, Deborah Hollister, insists she has no intention of imposing the English Baccalaureate on any of her pupils.
It is not often headteachers take quite such a tough stand against Government educational dictats.
But Education Secretary Michael Gove’s big idea, which ranks schools on the proportion of pupils achieving A*-C passes in five subjects specified by ministers, has attracted the scorn of many in the education world.
The chosen subjects are English, maths, two sciences, history or geography, and a foreign language. In future, pupils will be given English Baccalaureate certificates based on their performance on this measure.
It was introduced to encourage more pupils to take subjects the Government sees as essential. However, Miss Hollister feels it will simply narrow pupils’ options, ignore important subjects and create a qualification which has no official recognition.
Miss Hollister, head of the specialist science school, in Colchester Road, Lawford, explained: “It does not exist as a qualification with any of the exam boards, and does not even have a certificate to give to pupils. Nor do any post-16 education providers recognise it. So effectively, it does not exist.
“If our pupils happen to choose the combination of subjects which make it up, then that’s fine, but we will not insist or force it. That is the bottom line.”
Mr Gove announced the criteria for the English Baccalaureate in December and said the aim was to raise standards.
In the latest set of league tables, last summer’s GCSE results were sorted by the Government to assess how many pupils would have qualified for the English Baccalaureate. Schools were then ranked on the outcome.
The problem was neither teachers nor pupils knew in advance they were going to be judged in this way.
Miss Hollister said “What puzzles me is in a world where you can not escape technology – particularly ICT – that subject does not feature in the English Baccalaureate. We want people to be able to enjoy the arts and culture, yet there is no mention of art, music or drama in there, either.”
She said pupils starting GCSE courses rarely had much idea what they wanted to study later on, or what career path they wished to follow. For this reason, it was important to keep their options open.
She added: “Beyond maths, English and science, schools organise their other subjects depending on their own educational principles.
“We give our pupils a list of other subjects from which to choose and guide them, based on their needs and their strengths. But it is really their first chance to give themselves a bit of direction.
“The English Baccalaureate is very narrow, very academic and a real mismatch.”
Gillian Marshall, headteacher of Colchester High School for Girls, is also taking a stand against Mr Gove’s scheme.
Most of her pupils already take the English Baccalaureate subjects, but she said she would never force any of them to do so.
She explained: “It would work for some pupils who were going on to do any of those subjects at university, but many pupils need a different menu of subjects to enable them to access further education, the things in which they are interested and which will lead them to their chosen career.”
Jerry Glazier, of the National Union of Teachers’ Essex branch, described the proposal as “mechanistic and simplistic”.
He added: “We have always campaigned for a broad and balanced curriculum, for both academic and vocational qualifications to maintain and sustain opportunities.
“The English Baccalaureate is trying to return the curriculum to the bad old days of the Sixties.”