Earlier this year, AQi published a major discussion paper on the future of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc).

Stepping Stone: The future of the EBacc and student progression explored the pros and cons of the EBacc as a curriculum policy. The government’s aim is for the vast majority (90%) of GCSE students to enter at least one subject across five academic pillars: Maths; English; Science; Humanities and Modern Foreign Languages.

The report included the findings of a survey undertaken for AQi by TeacherTapp, which investigate attitudes to the EBacc among serving teachers in English secondary schools. We asked whether or not respondents agreed with four statements that all relate to the policy aims and rationale for directing most Key Stage 4 students to a core academic curriculum:

  • “Entering for all the GCSE EBacc subjects keeps a young person's post-16 options more open than not completing the EBacc”
  • “Encouraging all types of students to enter for the full EBacc suite of subjects is good for social mobility”
  • “Entering for the full EBacc suite of subjects is good for students even if they do not go on to A-levels or University”
  • “The GCSEs that currently comprise the EBacc represent the right suite of subjects and should not be changed”.

Remarkably, teacher views were pretty much evenly split between agreeing, disagreeing or simply not having an opinion on these statements. There was no single, clear ‘teacher view’ of the EBacc.

However, by digging deeper into the data, are we able to see patterns in responses that may point to what factors shape teacher attitudes to the EBacc?

To begin with, it’s worth nothing what doesn’t seem to be associated with shaping attitudes to the EBacc: the Ofsted rating of a teacher’s centre; their centre’s Free School Meal profile; and their school’s governance.

So where did we see variations?

  • Geographic region: surprisingly, there appear to be small but consistent differences in attitudes toward the EBacc across different parts of the country. Teachers in London, and also the South West, were typically more likely to agree with the statements than teachers in other areas, notably the North West, Yorkshire and the North East.
  • Age: younger teachers in their 20s were considerably more likely to agree with the statements than teachers aged 50+, with a clear effect noticeable by age-band.
  • Teaching experience: similar to age, a clear effect was observable - those with less than five years of experience were much more likely to agree with the statements than those with more than 20 years.                                          
  • Seniority: views of the four statements were evenly split among classroom teachers, middle leaders and SLTs. However, for each of the statements, Headteachers were much less likely to report agreeing with them.
  • Subject: English, Maths, Science and Humanities teachers all had evenly split views of the EBacc. However, Languages teachers were far more likely to agree with the statements and Arts (including D&T) teachers were much more likely to disagree.

What should we make of these results? Correlation does not prove causation, but nevertheless, some cautious observations can be made.

More negative attitudes toward the EBacc do seem to be on display among those teachers who can remember life before the EBacc, compared to those who have more recently entered the profession, who perhaps treat it as a fixed part of the landscape.

Heads seems the most sceptical of the EBacc, perhaps because they feel themselves at the sharp end of the EBacc as a school performance measure, with associated pressure to meet government targets.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, teachers of EBacc subjects have a more favourable view of it than those teaching non-EBacc subjects. The particularly positive views of Language teachers may reflect the crucial role of the EBacc performance measure in propping up entries in the face of some difficult headwinds.

So, in conclusion, what do teachers think of the EBacc? There is no single, clear ‘teacher view’, but it does seem that rather than their centre’s characteristics, it is the characteristics of teachers, their role and the subject they teach which shapes their views.