Norwich heads rage at government’s ‘flawed’ new qualification

Thousands of young people could be put off learning because the government's new English Baccalaureate (EBacc) will force them to study subjects that they are not suited to, Norwich headteachers claim.

The heads rounded on education secretary Michael Gove as it was revealed that just 15.5pc – fewer than one in six – of this year's GCSE students in Norfolk would have achieved the new qualification.

The EBacc, which is set to be included in next month's GCSE performance tables, will be gained by students who get at least a C grade in English, maths, double science, a humanity (geography or history) and a foreign language.

It is the government's attempt to encourage more young people to take traditional subjects and to squeeze out subjects that are considered to carry less weight. But the fact that it will be in the league tables without prior warning, and the narrow range of qualifying subjects, has triggered anger in Norwich.

There is particular concern that subjects including law, music and religious studies have at the moment been left out of the list of qualifying humanities subjects. Just history and geography make the cut.

Ron Munson, headteacher at Taverham High, said his school would not give the EBacc the 'time of day', adding: 'I won't have performance of this school judged on criteria not set.'

He said: 'Where was the consultation about the subjects included? Who decided that RE was not a humanities subject? How can the performance tables for 2010 include the EBacc results when it didn't exist?'

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David Brunton, Principal of City Academy Norwich, which would have scored 0pc on the EBacc this year, said: 'It's recognising success in such a narrow field. We think education should be about recognising the success of all our young people – who have different abilities. Although we can understand what the government is trying to do, its implementation is flawed.'

Ian Clayton, headteacher of Thorpe St Andrew School, which would have got 20.1pc this year, said: 'It's a very strange measure to bring in at this point. It doesn't recognise the broad range of experiences students need.'

Melvyn Roffe, principal of Wymondham College, said: 'From one point of view it is welcome - it does mean that there is a yardstick to try to get some detail on what actually constitutes the GCSE success rates in performance tables. But the definition of humanities, in particular, is woefully rigid.

'No RE, for example, let alone business studies, sociology or any of the other good things students do. And if you don't happen to be a humanities person (or you are an able linguist and do three languages instead) does that make you any the less worthy?'

Alison Thomas, cabinet member for children's services at Norfolk County Council, said the 15.5pc Norfolk average for EBacc achievement in this year's GCSEs was in line with the national average. She said: 'The publication of these statistics in January comes a year ahead of the EBacc's implementation, and a year before schools have been able to make any changes to address this new measure.

'GCSEs are usually two-year courses, so it will be some time before a significant adjustment of the curriculum for 15 and 16 year olds is made.'

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