Tories to water down pledge to make EBac compulsory for all

Ministers have watered down their policy of requiring all secondary students to sit GCSEs in the core academic subjects that make up the English Baccalaureate.

The Conservative Party made the requirement of a compulsory EBac for secondary students a key policy in their general election manifesto.

And as recently as June, the Department for Education issued a release reasserting its pledge to make maths, English, science, a foreign language, and history or geography mandatory, stating that “there is still more to do to ensure that all pupils get the chance to study these crucial subjects”.

In the release headed “schools to ensure every pupil studies core academic subjects”, education secretary Nicky Morgan said: “We want every single person in the country to have access to the best opportunities Britain has to offer – starting with an excellent education. This means ensuring children study key subjects.”

But in a speech at the thinktank Policy Exchange tomorrow, Ms Morgan is expected to row back on the promise, and will instead launch a consultation on the government’s goal for “90 per cent of pupils to be studying the vital EBac subjects”.

It is understood the government has conceded that not every student will be able to sit GCSEs in the more traditionally academic subjects, such as those with special educational needs and disabilities.

Under the proposals, Ms Morgan will announce that schools will be accountable, through Ofsted, to a headline measure on the proportion of pupils entering and achieving the EBac.

It is unclear whether the change in direction has come following discussions with the schools watchdog, but in September Her Majesty’s chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said the policy would be a “problem” for some students.

Speaking to TES, Sir Michael said he would enter into a “robust dialogue” with the government over its manifesto pledge to prohibit schools from gaining Ofsted’s highest rating if they decline to offer the Ebac.

“I will enter into a very productive and robust dialogue with government if that issue comes up, but it hasn’t come up,” he said at the time.

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