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EBacc: Social Mobility and Justice

Volume 705: debated on Monday 6 December 2021

1. If he will make an assessment of the contribution of the introduction of the EBacc to social (a) mobility and (b) justice. (904561)

I welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr French) to his place, and of course I welcome the hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South (Bridget Phillipson) to hers—a great promotion for her. The work of her predecessor, the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green), has been invaluable in what we can do together, especially with covid.

I commend the work of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Nick Gibb) throughout his tenure as Minister for School Standards, during which time the proportion of disadvantaged pupils entered for the EBacc increased from 9% in 2011 to 27% in 2021.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for those words. As he will know, the EBacc combines core academic GCSEs in subjects that advantaged families take it for granted that their children will study—maths, English, at least two sciences, a humanity and a foreign language. Given the importance of those subjects, what measures is he taking to ensure that schools meet the target of 75% of year 11 pupils taking those GCSE exams by 2024, and 90% by 2027?

I think my right hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that we have already achieved GCSE entry levels of over 95% in English, maths and science, and over 80% in humanities. On language GCSEs, however, the situation is slightly more challenging. That remains the biggest barrier to achieving the ambition, which is why we remain committed to reforming the subject content of French, German and Spanish GCSEs.

I support a relentless focus on standards in the core academic subjects, but resources also count. Given that Institute for Fiscal Studies analysis shows that the most deprived secondary schools saw a 14% real-terms fall in spending per pupil between 2009-10 and 2019-20, can the Secretary of State say whether that disparity in investment has improved or harmed social mobility and social justice?

I am grateful for the hon. Member’s question. I hope that he backs the record investment in education—£86 billion—that the Chancellor provided in the Budget. The Sutton Trust—I hope the hon. Member appreciates its research—suggests that, in 2016, the 300 schools that had increased EBacc take-up were more likely to achieve good GCSEs in mathematics and English, with pupil premium pupils benefiting the most. That is real levelling up from this Government.