The English Baccalaureate seems to have provoked three reactions.
'It is outrageous and exclusive rather than inclusive: we shall ignore it'. I came across this last night during a seminar on the White Paper where a head volunteered this reaction and the information that all 33 secondary fellow headteachers of secondary schools in their local authority had agreed to do the same.
'It is certainly going to be noticed and used at least by universities in sifting entrants. So whatever we think about its introduction in principle, we are going to change what we do to increase the proportion of those gaining the e-bacc' . I have come across deputies in a conference last week in Manchester who were reporting that in their schools immediate changes had been made for next September to downgrade RE and get the approved humanities coverage. Another reported that her school had already introduced an extra short course in languages for this year's Y10 to be followed by an intensive language course for the pupils concerned in Y11.
'I have some sympathy with the e-bacc as an attempt to broaden the curriculum and ensure that all take a broader course, but I don't think this is the right combination of subjects and omits some pretty important sets of experiences' This was the comment of one experienced and respected head of a school labelled by OFSTED 'outstanding'.
Now it seems to me that the first two reactions are quite understandable and immediate. But the third is tantalising and worth a bit more exploration.
One of the interesting things about the e-bacc is that Mr. Gove hasn't introduced a new qualification, nor for that matter has he used any of his 2,500 powers to give prominence to his idea of what the e-bacc should be. Still less has he spent any money on it! He has simply assumed that the impact of 'accountability' as he publishes the data will cause most in the end to adopt the second response outlined above. And he is probably right.
But, if Mr Gove can do this, what is to stop others from devising another Bacc so that pupils could opt for say one of three possible sets of Baccs? Say there were one which demanded English, maths, science, a humanity (inclusive of RE) art, and either music or sport?. Or another with English, maths, science, Design Technology, and either sport, or music? Or a third demanding English, maths, science, a humanity and a language? Each would allow 'add-ons' e.g. more science, or statistics with maths, or more languages but with an upper limit of 8 or 9 at level 2?
'Ah' you might say 'That's all very well but who would take any notice, even if we could get the combinations of the three possibilities right?' A fair point but it is being a bit defeatist. Let's 'think Egyptian', as I understand people are saying nowadays. What if we started by persuading some universities to lend their name to our Bacc and then get the broadsheets to publish the data? An 'Oxford-bacc' sounds almost better than an e-bacc.