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So what about that Conservative Ebacc commitment?

Update 14.6.15 - now looks like Ebacc will be introduced in full, including GCSE MFL for all, but with first teaching from September 2018.

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We will require secondary school pupils to take GCSEs in English, maths, science, a language and history or geography, with Ofsted unable to award its highest ratings to schools that refuse to teach these core subjects.

Conservative manifesto



Given that education barely featured in the election campaign, it's not surprising, perhaps, that this pledge went somewhat under the radar. Needless to say, it has huge ramifications for languages and for school accountability as a whole.

First question: should the government be able to tell Ofsted on what basis they can award grades? It would appear to seriously compromise Ofsted's independence.

Next, with regard to languages, this represents a volte face for the Conservatives. Since languages became optional under Labour, the Conservatives have always resisted the idea of making them compulsory once more. The Ebacc accountability measure certainly bribed schools in the direction of languages and triggered a slightly greater take-up at GCSE, but there was no indication that languages may become compulsory once more.

But let's look at that manifesto pledge more closely.

They say We will require secondary school pupils. I notice they do not say ALL secondary school students. Am I nit-picking?

Next, are we to presume that the statement applies to all schools, including free schools and academies? After all, the national curriculum currently does not. Would we be in the absurd situation of maintained schools having compulsory languages, while academies and frees do not? Could this mean - and I am stretching the argument to its limit here - that this would be an incitement to schools to academise?

The statement about Ofsted grading also suggests that schools may choose to refuse to apply the policy. Does this mean free schools and academies, or all schools?

The phrase "core subjects" is used. Do they mean "core" in the technical sense? This would be new for languages and give them equal status to maths, English and science.

Or, is this pledge really saying that the government accepts many schools will choose not to enforce compulsory languages and humanities and that, as before, the accountability regime will, penalise schools who make that choice, not just by a lower Ebacc score, but a lower overall school rating?

What if they really do mean that all schools must make languages compulsory for all at KS4? This has serious implications with regard to teacher supply. After 2004, many language teachers dropped out of the profession and we are now in a situation where language teacher supply is problematic. If schools were all to reintroduce compulsory languages at KS4 there would not be enough teachers.

Furthermore, we would be back to a situation where many pupils, unable to cope with the demands of (a toughened) GCSE would struggle in the classroom, achieve little and cause problems. Add to this the fact that the government allowed a valid alternative to GCSE to wither (Asset Languages) and seems to undervalue vocational language qualifications, we are potentially left with a real mess.

Let us see how this unfolds. Will realities hit home and will the government quietly abandon their Ebacc pledge?

Comments

  1. Hi Steve - will probably comment on the forum as well, but you raise some very interesting and excellent points. Do we know what the lovely Ms Morgan's view is on MFL? I look forward to being appreciated as a linguist again, should there be mad rush to entice us all back into the fold!

    Keep up the sterling work in the meantime.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi. Thanks for leaving a comment. No, I haven't heard Nicky Morgan say much about languages. I'm a little surprised language teachers have not picked up on this manifesto commitment. Surely teachers read the Tory manifesto!?

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