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Exam board joins calls for government to ditch EBacc

The number of GCSE drama students in England has fallen by 4%. Photo: Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock The number of GCSE drama students in England has fallen by 9%. Photo: Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock
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The company that runs one of the UK’s leading exam boards is calling for the government to stop using the English Baccalaureate to judge schools’ performances.

Education company Pearson, which incorporates GCSE and A Level exam board Edexcel, made the recommendation in a report on teaching assessment created with think tank LKMco.

The report has been welcomed by campaigners against the EBacc, who claim it has damaged the uptake of creative subjects.

The EBacc’s set of compulsory subjects – which does not include arts subjects – contributes to the government’s accountability measures for secondary schools: Attainment 8 and Progress 8.

The percentage of pupils at a school that are entered into the EBacc is also measured as part of its performance.

The report claims that many teachers, parents and young people feel that assessment measures such as the EBacc “do not adequately capture pupils’ achievements”, and having a system in which schools are accountable for their results means they are incentivised to pick certain qualifications over others.

“The Department for Education should therefore stop reporting schools’ performance using the EBacc performance measure, and instead focus on Attainment and Progress 8,” the report says, claiming these measures strike a balance between the EBacc’s core subjects and other options such as the arts.

The report, called Testing the Water, is based on a national consultation on the future of assessment, which was undertaken in 2016 in response to “widespread concerns about how statutory tests and exams can distract schools from their core job”.

Earlier this year, the government published its long-awaited response to the consultation on the EBacc, and confirmed it had no plans to add a compulsory creative subject, despite repeated calls for this from the arts sector.

Government snubs industry campaign to ditch ‘damaging’ EBacc

Responding to the Pearson report, Deborah Annetts, founder of the Bacc for the Future campaign and chief executive of the Independent Society of Musicians, said: “This timely, comprehensive, independent report recommends the scrapping of the EBacc. It must not be ignored by this government.

“In the past two years, numerous independent analyses of the evidence have demonstrated that the EBacc is having a devastating impact on the uptake of creative, artistic and technical subjects.”

She added that supporting creative industries’ talent pipeline would become more urgent post-Brexit, and urged the education secretary, Justine Greening, to meet with the group to look at ways the EBacc can be “reformed or withdrawn altogether”.

A spokeswoman for the DfE said: “We use a range of performance measures to assess secondary school performance in a number of areas and provide maximum transparency. Progress 8 is the primary accountability used by the department to assess performance.”

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