House of Commons Library

English Baccalaureate

Published Monday, September 4, 2017

This House of Commons Library briefing sets out the history and purpose of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), and the Government's plans following the publication of its response to a consultation on the EBacc in July 2017

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A performance measure for schools: 2010

The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) is a performance measure for schools in England, first applied in the 2010 school performance tables.  It measures the achievement of pupils who have gained Key Stage 4 (GCSE level) qualifications in the following subjects:

  • English
  • mathematics
  • history or geography
  • the sciences; and
  • a language

The Coalition Government stated that the principal purpose of the new measure was to increase the take-up of ‘core’ academic qualifications that best equipped a pupil for progression to further study and work.

The subject composition of the EBacc has been consistent since its introduction, aside from the addition in 2014 of some computing qualifications within the sciences aspect of the measure.  Concerns have been raised about the impact on subjects that are not included.  The decision not to include religious education was particularly controversial, along with creative subjects such as art and music.

A strengthened EBacc: 2015

The Conservative manifesto for the 2015 General Election proposed that the English Baccalaureate be made a requirement for English schools.  In June 2015 the Government announced that pupils beginning Year 7 in September 2015 will study the EBacc at GCSE level, meaning they would take their GCSEs in those subjects in 2020.

The Government believes that a compulsory EBacc will enhance the prospects of pupils, particularly disadvantaged pupils, by ensuring they receive a core academic curriculum that allows them to retain options in subsequent education and in the employment market.  Concerns have been raised that the EBacc may not be suitable for a significant number of pupils, and that teacher supply, particularly in languages, could pose problems for implementation.

In November 2015 the Government published a consultation setting out the aim that at least 90% of pupils in mainstream secondary schools should be entered for the EBacc, and seeking views on implementation.  The consultation was open until 29 January 2016.

The Government response to the consultation was published in July 2017.  The response took forward proposals set out in the Conservative manifesto for the 2017 General Election, for 75% of pupils to be entered for the EBacc combination of GCSEs by September 2022 (taking GCSEs in 2024), with 90% of pupils studying the EBacc by 2025 (taking GCSEs in 2027).

English Baccalaureate Certificates

Separately, a new qualification, the English Baccalaureate Certificate, was proposed by the Coalition Government in 2012, but this was not adopted.  Reforms to GCSE qualifications were pursued instead. 

 

Commons Briefing papers SN06045

Authors: Robert Long; Paul Bolton

Topic: Schools

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