By Matthew Barrett
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Civitas has issued a note in light of yesterday's GCSE results, which suggests that because the new EBacc benchmark is to achieve A*-C grades in the five "core" academic subjects, some of the least advantaged students may not get the chance to study EBacc subjects at all.
This is based on the previous experience of schools trying to achieve A*-C grades, which showed schools discouraged students deemed unlikely to achieve a C from taking non-compulsory subjects.
Civitas' Director of Education, Anastasia de Waal said:
"The EBacc will not only fail to address this scenario, it could potentially exacerbate it by shifting the purpose of course entries entirely to securing the EBacc A*-Cs. A student judged to be unlikely to get a C risks both failing to add to the league tables and distracting teaching time away from the EBacc target."
Civitas point to the correlation between lower exam performance and free school meal eligibility, meaning those students liable to be excluded from EBacc subjects are disproportionately likely to be poorer. The focus on grades C or above means that students considered "risky" may not even get the chance to try for a good grade. de Waal commented:
"A significant percentage of D, E and F grades are achieved in compulsory English and maths: we can assume that taking the course, despite not gaining an A*-C, is still valuable. This is not the message the EBacc is giving. Students may now be being ushered into academic GCSEs to boost EBacc performance, as the Government hoped, but the A*-C benchmark means that others will also be ushered out."
They also recommended the EBacc be based on entry for courses, rather than performance. This would help those deemed to "under-perform", and also help move away from the league-tables culture that many schools operate in, to the detriment of their pupils.
Ms de Waal concludes:
"The House of Commons Education Committee found little evidence to suggest that the EBacc would help the most disadvantaged. The A*-C focus is a key impediment. Ensuring equality of access to academic subjects is a positive goal; but the strategy is redundant if the most deprived lose out."