Posted on March 30, 2011 - by MG
I’ve been at the BBC Millbank studios today talking about my thoughts on the English Baccalaureate on the BBC Daily Politics show. In my role as a school governor (which I don’t talk about much here…!) and chair of our governors’ Curriculum Committee, it’s my role to support the school in implementing government policy. Under the last government there were things I had quibbles with but – to be honest – I couldn’t see that government lasting. So like many, I waited patiently to see what the change of government would bring.
And in the main, I liked much of what I read in the Coaltition Government’s White Paper on Education – The Importance of Teaching. I even liked the idea of an ‘English Baccalaureate’ or ‘EBac’, which would steer 14-16 year-olds to a core of broad and academic subjects and away from English/Maths and a ‘soft’ BTec worth 4 GCSE equivalents.
Except that the apparently exemplifying language of the paper ‘and a humanity such as history or geography’ turned out to be utterly proscriptive!
So that seems to be that other humanities; religious education, philosophy, economics, law…will not ‘count’ in the EBac.
Well, it’s a half-baked policy, as I argued in the short sequence filmed at St Gregory the Great School, Oxford, where I’m a governor.
Maybe Michael Gove should pop back to Oxford University, where he and I were contemporaries in the 1980s. He could revisit the Bodleian Library, once the core of the University, and check out the ‘Scholae’ that formed the heart of an ancient University education. Moral Philosophy (modern-day equivalent is Religious Studies), Music, Natural Philosophy (modern-day equivalent is Science), Logic (modern day equivalent, Maths), Grammar and History (language and history).
If you’re going to hark back to a classical education, what’s wrong with Oxford University’s original curriculum?
Or maybe he’d argue that we’ve moved on from the 13th century. That’s fine. So how about adding a core technology subject? ICT/Design and Technology/Computer Studies?
At the West London Free School started by journalist Toby Young and some fellow parents, Latin will be compulsory to GCSE. And you know what – that is fine by me. Toby is a school governor. That’s who should set the curriculum of a particular school: headteachers and governors!
Come on, Michael. Don’t be a fuddy-duddy, meddling micro-manager. Let headteachers and school governors set the agenda, the way the White Paper promised! If we must have another performance measure, at least allow each school to choose the compulsory humanity for their students.
But why stop at a performance measure? EBac could be something actually useful, a pre-16 qualification with a core of English/Maths/Science/Language/Humanity+4 more subjects for the academic strand OR a chunky vocational subject or two.
Anyway, here are some of the criticisms of EBac as it stands: