Headteachers oppose making EBac GCSEs compulsory, new poll finds

The vast majority of headteachers are against a government decision to make it compulsory for pupils to take the academic GCSEs needed to fulfil the English Baccalaureate (EBac) performance measure, a new poll suggests.

School leaders are concerned that the change will not suit every pupil and could mean less time for more creative subjects, according to the Association of School and College Leaders’ survey of some 1,000 of its members.

Under the reform, children starting secondary school in England from next month will have to study English, maths, science, history or geography and a language at GCSE. Ministers have said this will ensure that pupils get a rigorous academic education, which will help them to succeed later in life. But ASCL has found that 87 per cent of its members disagree with the change while only about 10 per cent support it.

Of those who oppose the proposal, 81 per cent said that the range of subjects required was too inflexible, 86 per cent said it would leave less room for creative or vocational subjects, about 97 per cent said it would not suit every pupil and 58 per cent said the change amounted to an unfair performance measure.

But almost three-quarters (74 per cent) of those who said they had concerns over the reform agreed that more flexibility in the choice of subjects would make them more inclined to support it.

They survey also found that 74 per cent of school leaders said that their school did not have enough teachers for the EBac subjects, with languages causing the most difficulties.

ASCL deputy general secretary Malcolm Trobe said: “We understand that ministers intend to consult widely during the autumn over their plan for the compulsory EBac, and we are very pleased that they are doing so. We hope that this will lead to them building more flexibility into this system.

“It is clear from our survey that the vast majority of school leaders are concerned that the current proposals are too rigid and will restrict their ability to offer a curriculum which suits the needs of all their pupils.”

The survey also found that more than a third of school leaders thought that the level of GCSE and A-level reform being introduced this September was “unmanageable”.

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