The English Baccalaureate – a report from the House of Commons Education Committee
Today’s publication of the Education Committee’s findings following their inquiry into the introduction of the English Baccalaureate is critical about all aspects of the initiative. They highlight:
“... significant concerns about the exact composition of the EBac, the impact the EBac will have on students, and the manner of the EBac’s introduction,” commenting particularly on the fact that they regretted it had been introduced before the completion of the National Curriculum review.
The report goes on to:
“... urge the Government to keep the EBac under careful scrutiny, to review the subjects in it, to consult more widely with the public on how best to measure students’ and schools’ performance, and to take seriously the lessons to be learnt from the EBac’s introduction.”
The report also specifically mentions the concerns of witnesses:
“... about the exclusion of technical subjects from the EBac suite ... the National Committee for 14-19 Engineering Education of the Royal Academy for Engineering agreed that the EBac ‘does nothing to promote practical and technical experience outside of mathematics and science’ and, consequently, ‘does not do enough to support productive industry in the UK.’”
As Sir James Dyson has stressed: "Academic rigour is important but polymaths aren’t created from Maths and Science alone. Britain needs people to make things – Design and Technology equips young people with the enthusiasm and ability to invent."
The fact that the Committee received far more submissions than usual for an inquiry of this type goes to show how worried the education community is about the negative impact of the EBac on pupils’ education. In a recent survey of schools carried out by the Design and Technology Association 75% reported that they have had fewer students opting to study the subject at GCSE from this September compared to last year. More worrying is the fact that nearly 30% reported that their KS3 curriculum time has been cut so that pupils, from as early as Y7 in some schools, can spend additional time studying EBac subjects.
Dick Powell, co-founder and director of global design and innovation company, Seymourpowell, and a leading advocate of design and technology education states:
“The soft introduction of the EBac is another blow on the wedge that is being driven into the UK's education system, conceived to split out traditional academic subjects as somehow more worthy and important for our children - a view incidentally held by many teachers, too often institutionalised academics themselves. If this move is not stopped in its tracks, we will see the almost complete dislocation of theory from practice and a return to 1950s education values.
People forget that the UK has a world class creative industries sector which, last time it was measured in 2007, accounted for 4.5% of national exports totaling £16.6 billion and employing some 2m people. Between 1997 and 2008, the sector grew an average of 2% per annum, compared to 1% per annum for the economy as a whole. The big percentage of people in those industries will have studied Art and/or Design and Technology in addition to academic studies and, thanks to that, would have gone into higher education to continue their studies in a creative subject.
On the one hand, government talks of 'creative' Britain and the 'innovation' imperative, while on the other hand it is considering the emasculation of the very system which made it possible and is required to sustain it. In seeking to review the school curriculum and evaluate the EBac, there is a serious and growing risk that they will throw the innovation baby out with the educational bathwater.”
Richard Green, Chief Executive of the Design and Technology Association, commented:
“The Education Committee’s report confirms what we have said all along. All pupils should have access to a curriculum that meets their needs and interests. For far too many pupils the EBac is skewing the curriculum away from technical and creative subjects. D&T not only teaches skills which are essential for all pupils but also inspires young people to consider careers in design, technology, manufacturing and engineering that this country needs for economic recovery.”
“We are very disappointed that this report has been published during the summer holiday period and that it has been pre-empted by ministers saying there will be no further subjects added to the EBac until the first changes to the National Curriculum are introduced in 2013. In many schools this will be too late – the damage will have been done and the life chances of thousands of pupils will have been affected. At the very least the EBac should be suspended immediately until the National Curriculum review has been completed.”
Read the full report of the House of Commons Education Committee here and the D&T Association's submission to the EBac inquiry here.