Could you imagine what Sir Alex Ferguson would have said if the FA had told him half way through last season that they were changing the rules for success? Instead of being measured on how a match was won by goals scored and conceded but also by the combination of goals, assists, free kicks and throw-ins. Not only that, they are going to use this new system this season but also on the previous seasons successes as well. Hairdryer treatment? Possibly; Would Fergie have instructed his team to then play by the new rules? Absolutely.
0%! That was the total percentage of how many of our students achieved the EBacc last summer. When the results were released in January of this year no one at my school was surprised. We all knew that our students weren't entered for a modern foreign language. Within weeks of this data being released the MFL department was subjected to an Ofsted inspection. This summer we achieved 3%. When the government set about changing the 'rules' of success half way through the game, my school then had no choice but to play by them.
Asking students to give up, refocus their attention or undertake additional subjects over half way through Key Stage 4 is not ideal. In fact, it adds significant extra pressure to both student and teacher. The student, who now has more work then they may be able to cope with; The teacher, who is now faced with additional students or classes on their timetable or the flip side which is students focusing less on your subject because it is now deemed not to be as important.
I can see from the results at our school that the introduction of the EBacc did indeed have a negative impact. Our results improved in the EBacc but our 5 A*-C (Inc.English & Maths) fell from 47% to 45%. It could be argued that in order for our students to reach the new standard, they had to stretch themselves too much at too late a stage.
These students started their EBacc options 12 weeks before taking exams and submitting coursework. Many of the students who I spoke to this morning were disappointed with the results they achieved in those subjects that they hadn't originally chosen over two years ago. A lack of perspective was on display. However, what did we expect? If you expect students to live and die by their results when they fail to achieve the benchmark, they are then obviously disappointed, no matter how difficult the challenge was.
These results leave more questions than answers. Where does this leave the school now? Was it fair to ask so much of our students and teachers? Was it fair to expect so much from them considering the timescales allowed? Where does it leave non-EBacc subjects?
What is clear today, is that you can't expect to achieve great results from a 2 year GCSE course in just 12 weeks. What will become clear over the coming hours, days & weeks will be that there will be a significant increase in the pass rate for the EBacc. Just 16% of students achieved the EBacc last year and 175 schools didn't have a single pupil who were eligible to achieve the EBacc. I would think that this year you will see both of those figures increase significantly. The obvious conclusion to draw, is that most schools altered student options during year 11.
What won't become clear for a long time will be the impact of those subjects that aren't included in the EBacc. In 2010, I had 10 ICT classes in year 11. This coming year I have 4. The year after, 2. If the trend continues I may well be out of a job very soon. I would like to say that this isn't out of a lack of interest in the subject but because my school needs to focus more time on the EBacc subjects. It could be argued that employers need their employees to have a greater understanding of ICT than that of Latin or Biblical Hebrew. However, they are EBacc subjects and ICT is not. Subjects should not be left to die just because they don't fit an academic model of achievement.
Michael Gove would argue that he hasn't enforced the EBacc benchmark on schools, they are not judged against it. However, you can't expect to introduce new rules into a game and not expect people to follow them, irrespective of the cost.