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English Baccalaureate

Volume 536: debated on Monday 21 November 2011

10. What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the introduction of the English baccalaureate. (81764)

A survey of nearly 700 schools has shown that the English baccalaureate is having an immediate impact by increasing the number of pupils electing to take up a key set of academic subjects and by reversing declines in entry to subjects such as French, German and history, which we know are valued by universities and the wider public. The survey showed that 47% of pupils studying for their GCSEs in 2013 are taking academic subjects leading to the English baccalaureate, compared with just 23% entering that combination of subjects in 2011. That figure of 47% takes us back almost to the 49% who took those subjects when Labour came to office in 1997.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Is he concerned that the impact of the English baccalaureate will undermine the value of excluded subjects such as divinity or religious education, which play an important part in providing students with a well-rounded English education?

Religious Education is an important part of the school curriculum, which is why it is compulsory up to age 16 and why it will remain so under this Government. The E-bac is small enough, with six or seven GCSEs, to allow time for the study of subjects such as RE, music, art or a vocational subject while also studying the E-bac combination of GCSEs that are regarded as the facilitating subjects. That will keep options open for longer and will widen opportunities.

Does the Minister recognise that the E-bac will be inappropriate for some of the pupils represented in the figures he has just read out, but that schools will have to push their pupils towards taking that approach because of the retrospective and quite sloppy way in which all this has been introduced? What message does he have for teachers who want to motivate pupils using a wider curriculum if the E-bac is not appropriate for them?

No student should be entered for a subject that is not in their best interests. The E-bac is small enough to allow schools to offer a range of options, including a vocational or other subject that is motivational for that student while still taking the E-bac subjects if they are suitable for that pupil.