I can’t help but wonder what the unintended consequences of Michael Gove’s EBacc will be. I suspect these will be legion and that it will be students who suffer.
There are a couple of problems as I see it, from a laypersons point of view. Firstly, the EBacc is extremely restrictive and doesn’t include any arts, social sciences, IT or RE, and given the global importance of the creative economy, this is a strange anomaly. But hey, I can hear you say, surely kids will able to do cool and fun stuff around their EBacc?
Well, maybe not. Seeing as schools will be judged on their EBacc successes, you can be sure that heads will focus on these subjects in an absolutely ruthless fashion. An anecdotal example should give you a flavour of what’s to come: when my friend asked the new head of a local primary why the school wasn’t celebrating the Jubilee earlier this summer, he said quite simply “it’s not on the curriculum.”
One unexpectedly helpful side-effect might be impact on league tables, the removal of which would be the single most important thing you could do in education – allowing the focus to go back to students and what they want and need rather than an appearance of success which serves mostly to benefit heads and local authorities. In my local schools in south east London only around 20% of students would have got the EBacc this year round and it’s hard to see how this will be turned around by the time the new EBacc cohort start in 2015. I can’t imagine schools will be dying to show off results like that – although I guess it’s one way of dealing with what the government charmingly calls ‘grade inflation’ and what successful GCSE candidates probably saw as the result of a huge amount of hard work.
The above is particularly true of the language component, and whilst I absolutely support the notion that everyone in the UK should learn a second language, I imagine there will need to be significant investment in language teaching at primary and secondary in order to get enough young people both up to speed and engaged with languages.
It’s a shame that no-one’s actually asking what education is for – and building ideas for change that would actually empower and educate future generations in a way that will allow them to navigate the huge challenges in front of them.
It’s probably best I refrain from commenting on the faux indignation in Gove and Clegg’s Evening Standard article, which raged against those who hold back disadvantaged young people, and it’s probably not worth asking why a government that introduced free schools in order to liberate schools would attempt to centralise education in such a sweeping way. Instead, I’ll just point out that teachers are not the enemy of teaching and that the single most important things politicians could do for education would be to back right off.