Monday 10 October 2016

Progress 8, ebacc, thoughts from a retiring teacher

I put up some questions on Facebook about Progress 8 and ebacc. A teacher, Susan Singfield, who i don't know, replied as follows:

"'Progress 8' means the students' best 8 grades are averaged out to give them a points score. The 8 have to include ebacc subjects, which are grouped in 'buckets.' There is officially space for creative and technology subjects (depending on how the school organises its timetable) but they are all in the 'last' bucket, I.e. the optional one that you can go to after you've got all your ebacc subjects out of the other buckets. There are a few things standing in the way of those who want to take more than one of these 'extra' subjects:

A) the doubling of points for English and maths (now worth twice as many points as other GCSEs in terms of a school's ranking) means that they are given more and more time on the timetable. Currently 5 hours a week each in a lot of schools. This time obviously has to come from somewhere else. It usually means the kids can take fewer GCSEs, thus limiting their options and making it less likely they can take more than one arts or technology subject.

B) schools need to ensure that kids meet ebacc requirements, so 'encourage' (sometimes this means 'attempt to force') students to take extra ebacc subjects instead of arts or technology, to give them a better chance of getting an ebacc, e.g. taking history as well as geography when only one humanities subject is actually a requirement. 

C) in order to get students on board, ebacc is talked up, even though it's a performance measure for schools and doesn't actually affect kids much so long as they pass a variety of subjects. This means that arts and technology subjects are sometimes belittled by options staff, as students are talked in to taking other subjects that they haven't initially selected. This leads of course to a smaller uptake and a downgraded status.

D) A lot of schools are only allowing students who are unlikely to meet ebacc requirements to pursue more than one arts or technology subject. This makes them look like subjects suitable only for less able candidates, when really they can be valuable to students of all abilities. 

E) the GCSEs themselves have changed so that they are much more theoretical. For example, GCSE drama is now 70% written work and only 30% practical. This makes them much less attractive.

It's a long post. I hope it helps. I'm happy to try to clarify further if necessary. I have just quit after 22 years as an English and drama teacher. I have no appetite for it any more. It's a travesty."