The English Baccalaureate was introduced as a performance measure in the 2010 performance tables. It is not a qualification in itself. The measure recognises where pupils have secured a C grade or better across a core of academic subjects – English, mathematics, history or geography, the sciences and a language.
There are no plans to change the subjects used for the measure at present. The make-up of the English Baccalaureate is kept under review in the wider context of ongoing education reforms.
The English Baccalaureate is made up of English, mathematics, history or geography, the sciences and a language. A full list of the qualifications that count towards the English Baccalaureate is available to download from the performance tables website.
From 2014 computer science (CS) GCSEs will be included in the science element of the EBacc. Only achievements in the following computer science qualifications will be eligible for the EBacc in 2014:
The following Computer Science GCSE will also be eligible from 2015:
Ministers have decided that, from 2014, in line with changes to the way in which qualifications are recognised in performance tables, there should be greater alignment between the EBacc measure and other performance measures. The recognition of IGCSE-style qualifications (also known as level 1 and level 2 certificates) will continue. In addition, qualifications that are regulated by Ofqual and approved by the Department for Education for inclusion in key stage 4 performance tables for the relevant year will count towards the EBacc measure if they:
The impact of this change on the qualifications already on the list for recognition in the 2014 and 2015 performance tables can be found on this page.
The number of non-academic qualifications taken up to age 16 had risen from about 15,000 in 2004 to about 575,000 in 2010, with a higher take-up of vocational qualifications by young people from deprived backgrounds. Many of these qualifications do not carry real weight for entry to higher education or for getting a job.
There had also been a decline in the opportunity to take some core subjects, such as modern foreign languages, history and geography at key stage 4. This decline disproportionately affected pupils from the poorest backgrounds or attending schools in disadvantaged areas. For example, in 2009 just four per cent of pupils qualifying for free school meals took chemistry or physics, fewer than one in five did history and fewer than 15 per cent took geography or French.
When we look at achievement in the English Baccalaureate we see a similar picture of inequality – in 2010, only eight per cent of pupils qualifying for free school meals (FSM) took the English Baccalaureate, with four per cent achieving it, whilst 24 per cent of non-FSM pupils took the English Baccalaureate and 17 per cent achieved it.
This measure enables parents and pupils to see how their school is performing in these key academic subjects. We want to encourage more students to take these core subjects and to bring about greater fairness of opportunity so that all students have the chance to study for the English Baccalaureate.
The subjects we include are designed to ensure that all pupils have the opportunity to study a broad core of subjects, ensuring that doors are not closed off to them in terms of future progression. For example, for pupils hoping to go to university, The Russell Group guide on making informed choices for post-16 education identifies ‘facilitating subjects’ at A level. These are the subjects most likely to be required or preferred for entry to degree courses and ones that will keep the most options open.
The subjects they identify are those included in the English Baccalaureate – mathematics, English, physics, biology, chemistry, geography, history and languages (classical and modern). The English Baccalaureate is intended to give pupils greater opportunity to study in and beyond the vital core of English, mathematics and the sciences. It therefore has a particular focus on key subjects which have, in the past, been withdrawn from key stage 4 by some schools, even where pupils might benefit from them. These include, for example, languages, where research has shown that there are clear advantages in terms of cognitive skills and understanding, and history and geography, all of which have been in decline.
The take-up of history, geography and languages indicates that the English Baccalaureate is reversing the long-term drift away from these subjects. In 2010 just 22% of GCSE stage pupils were entered for the relevant combination of EBacc subjects.
Provisional 2013 data shows that this has risen to 35%. However, this does not mean we want schools to restrict options to just this academic core or to force these qualifications on pupils for whom they are not suitable. The core has deliberately been kept small to allow the opportunity for additional study – whether that is in other GCSEs or vocational qualifications.