Comment on Warwick’s excellent piece “New (v long) blog on Michael Gove, academy results and the EBacc

The link to Warwick’s piece is here

Having worked in an Academy (in fact one of the first), we made the decision to have pathways for students.  With good guidance students could choose which pathway they wanted to study.  One academic, one a mixture of academic and vocational and one purely vocational for those who wanted to study for a skilled trade.  Whatever the pathway all students studied, approx 78% of their curriculum time was core and identical.  We never made all students study a BTEC and was probably the reason that we didn’t make as fast progress as some of the others.

The result of this was London Challenge, floor level issues, threats of removal of SLT, restructures etc etc.  For educational reasons we stuck to our principals and we started to make good progress with our students.  More went on to sixthform and A’levels, than had ever done in the local area, and we had our first applicants to Oxbridge.  However, we were a non-selective in a selective Borough.  Where we were getting 60%+ 5A* to C and 40%+ inc, Harris moved in locally and instantly moved that school to 90%+ 5A* to C (although the same inc).  Once again we had DoE focus, London Challenge, threats of losing our jobs and a restructure.  Luckily at this point I managed to move schools.

The point of this story?   I am not sure but to tell you how it works inside a school where you are under threat of sacking, or academy orders, or are swamped by consultants or Borough advisors, with the knowledge that it all can be changed by one set of exam results.  With one good set of results all the support disappears, but none of the pressure.

Whatever the measure schools will do whatever they can to improve the results.  So the impact of the EBacc will be a narrowing of the curriculum, with many academic GCSE subjects pushed out (Art, Music, RE, Sociology, Psychology, Business Studies, ICT, PE (yes look a PE syllabus to see the depth of study), Graphic Design, Technology etc etc).  There will be lots of students whose curricula will be reduced so that they can have increased time in the EBacc subjects.  English Literature will suffer as schools use the English curricula time wholly for English Language.  I covered this is full here and here

Hoops are jumped through, targets reached and then the goal posts are moved just as you think you score the winning penalty.  This has happened over the past four years in almost every year.  30% floor target, CVA calculation changed, EBacc, now 35% floor target and targets for three levels of progress (which for data dullards is tougher than the old tough target of FFT-D).  This has to be achieved with less resources, with increased teacher contact time, with less support, with reduced options for students who need alternative provision etc.

The advisor that you speak about will say that school’s are ‘free’ to chose the curriculum and that the EBacc measure is not a target and therefore it is the individual school’s fault and not the Government’s.  But history of league tables tell us that create a measure to judge and we will all focus on achieving the best we can in that measure, sometimes to the detriment of the students.  Sadly, this will be a case of history repeating itself.


2 thoughts on “Comment on Warwick’s excellent piece “New (v long) blog on Michael Gove, academy results and the EBacc

    1. No they will be disastrous for local education as they are set up on a whim rather than a need. For example, WLFS will compete for students with another new school Hammersmith Academy. As WLFS are not part of the centralised admissions Hammersmith can’t be sure of the students that have applied to them that will go end up going to WLFS. Suffolk middle schools are also look like an unmitigated disaster for local planning…therefore appears to be an unplanned folly.

      I did have some sympathy for those set up by parents and teachers, albeit badly planned and executed in the main. But now that chance has been removed it is obviously just an attempt to privatise the system.

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