What is an EBacc? It’s a proposed new educational qualification, called English Baccalaureate Certificate in full. It is going to replace the GCSEs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Whose idea is it? Education Secretary Michael Gove has suggested it as a response to accusations of dumbing down.
Is it a done deal? Not quite, it’s under consultation at the moment.
What’s wrong with GCSEs? The General Certificate of Secondary Education was introduced in 1986 and more and more children appear to have done better and better year after year, making it very hard to know what’s really going on.
GCSEs are taken in modules – bite-size chunks – of course work and exams. Resits of parts of the courses are commonplace.
Three different exam boards each offer every subject’s GCSE, leading to competition and, unsurprisingly, schools choose the exam board their pupils will do best in, because it’ll look better in the league tables.
How is the EBacc going to be different? Pupils will sit exams at the end of their two-year courses and also be marked on spelling and grammar. Only one exam board will offer each subject and be given a five-year contract to do so.
What difference will this make? Michael Gove believes this will test what children really know rather than letting them cram for smaller tests throughout the term. It also eliminates variation between exam boards. There will be fewer resits – so pupils can’t repeatedly keep sitting modules.
Is this the end for all coursework? Not quite. Lab-based science subjects will still be evaluated partly on course work as will music, language and other practical subjects.
How will Ebaccs be graded? We aren’t quite sure yet, but it seems the GCSE system of A* to C grades will be ditched in favour of numeric marks or percentages.
So what? It will be easier to see the differences between the youngsters’ results, but slight variations could make a big difference for some.
When will all this happen? In three years, from 2015 pupils will start EBacc courses in English, maths and science ready for exams in the summer of 2017.
In 2016, history, geography and languages will be introduced with the first exams coming in 2018.
What if you fail your exams? Students who don’t get their desired results can come back the following year and have another go, or the year after. Some people fear this will create a two-tier system of students with an EBacc and students without.
What’s going to happen between now and then? Some observers say that youngsters doing GCSEs for the last few years will be disadvantaged as so much has been said to discredit the current system.
Anything else? There have been suggestions that this is a ‘backward step’ that favours those who are good at passing exams in academic subjects. Teaching union representatives have criticised EBaccs saying the proposed system is too simplistic for today’s complex teaching and learning needs.