GCSE Subjects and the EBacc

(48 Posts)
lexie01 Thu 14-Feb-13 22:26:29

My DD1 is in yr5 and I have started to investigate local secondary schools. Our local comp is rated Ofsted outstanding and scores well in the League Tables (GCSE a-c or equivalent 90%). However it's EBacc scores are quite low (20%) which is a worry.

I have asked the school twice to provide me with a breakdown of all the subjects which students took GCSE's in but they have refused and simply refer me back to the league tables.

Am I asking the wrong questions or do they simply not have to provide this information??

prh47bridge Fri 15-Feb-13 00:22:53

What exactly have you requested? Have they given a reason for their refusal?

cricketballs Fri 15-Feb-13 07:05:28

You need to remember that the Ebacc was suddenly thrown into the league tables with no warning for schools and that MFL is not compulsory at KS4 therefore many schools did not force students to study a language.

lljkk Fri 15-Feb-13 07:36:21

Why does it worry you that EBacc scores are low? Why do you think it matters?

tiredaftertwo Fri 15-Feb-13 08:19:55

I asked for this when looking at schools. Some already provided it on websites or Open Days, some did on request, some refused and wondered why I wanted to know.

They definitely have the information.

Before the ebacc, did schools with balanced intakes where almost no-one was studying a MFL and either history or geography as well as the core subjects really think they were educating their pupils well?

You could try asking them for the results for subjects that more than 10 children took, in case they were worried about confidentiality, and you could try asking the the options booklet or whatever that their year 9s are probably currently looking at. You could also find another school locally that does provide this info, and point that out.

Good luck - don't give up. There are some strange anomalies in the league tables so the raw data can be reassuring - but this stuff does matter.

seeker Fri 15-Feb-13 09:36:52

There could be lots of reasons. My dd's school, for example, has surprisingly low EBacc figures, but that is because a lot of the kids choose RE as a humanity because the course at the school is particularly well taught and interesting, but it means they don't get the EBacc.

Have you asked the school directly about their EBacc figures?

lexie01 Fri 15-Feb-13 12:52:00

Thanks for all these replies. Sorry I haven't replied sooner.

The reason I wanted the information is that I was concerned that the school could be suggesting students take slightly easier subjects in order to maintain their league table position. When the EBacc came out last year I was really amazed at how low the figures were for most schools - I say most because this does not appear to be an issue at grammars and inde schools. I had been under the naive impression that all students Had to take a science, language and humanities subject as I did when I was at school.

The fact that the school cannot (or will not) provide me with the information I have asked for worries me further. I have simply asked for a list of all subjects in which exams were taken in and the number of students taking each subjEct. I don't think this is an unreasonable request. As you say seeker there may be very good reasons for the low figure but unless I get the information I will never know.

Wish me luck as I am about to send another request through to the school x

lljkk Fri 15-Feb-13 13:17:35

okay, fair enough, I get it.
It's probably time-consuming to collect that info for just one request.
Local high school not only publishes & distributes the info you want, they also say what marks were received. They do it to show that although their averages are mediocre there are some stellar high achievers in the cohort, too.

lexie01 Fri 15-Feb-13 13:32:14

lljkk - I would hope that a secondary school should already have lists of subjects and number of students taking each subject at exam level so it shouldn't take too long to collate the information.

I have just had another look at the performance data for this school out of the 167 students in ks4 only 27 took the EBacc. Of these 20 were classed as high attainers. However this school have a very high percentage of high attainers (I hate that word but that is how they are categorised in the table data). This I still think is very low.

I have emailed the school again so we will see what happens next.

Blissx Fri 15-Feb-13 15:45:16

Lexie01, I don't know if this will help, but I wouldn't be too worried about the EBacc. For example, the majority of private schools haven't scored too well on the EBacc (and some grammars) as they don't force pupils to take History or Geography, but offer Latin, Astonomy, Ancient Greek, Classical Civilisation etc. Equally, they were dumped on pupils who, when they chose their options 2years previously, had never heard of the EBacc.
I would just focus on the Maths and English results. Besides, Gove is changing his mind on a weekly basis about the EBacc. it's a myth that a low score=soft options all of the time.

HSMMaCM Fri 15-Feb-13 22:55:04

DD is currently choosing her options. The school told us that the ebacc is just a measure to make the school look good and should not influence our choices. DD wants to do RS as her humanity, so she won't do history or geography and won't be in the ebacc scores.

BoundandRebound Sun 17-Feb-13 16:48:39

School is within its rights to refer you to league tables and it sounds to me,like you're being a bit of a pain if im honest. . You won't be the only prospective parent so why do you think that the data manager should be spending time analysing data for you which is above what is published?

Tbh I don't see what benefit you'll get from knowing how last years part cohort did in their exams when it is 7 years before yours will be due to take them. You need to like the school and their plans for the future.

BoundandRebound Sun 17-Feb-13 16:50:12

High attainers are categorised at entry through ks2 SATs data I believe, so the analysis is supposed to show you how well they do with each group.

EvilTwins Sun 17-Feb-13 18:11:15

I think you're putting far too much emphasis on the wrong thing. If it were me (and mine are Yr 2, so ages yet) I would be looking at VA scores rather than EBacc, partcuarly given that EBacc is a relatively new measure, and one which was originally applied retrospectively.

I also think you're going OTT getting cross that the school is failing to provide you with very specific information, given that your child is in Yr 5 and you are only looking around at the moment. The number of students taking specific courses will change year on year. For example, I teach Performing Arts. In Yr 11, there are 16 students taking it. In Yr 10, there are 40. Not sure what that kind of information would tell you other than that Yr 10s prefer drama...

teacherwith2kids Sun 17-Feb-13 20:17:29

(A cautionary tale on EBacc figures - a very, very selective grammar got 0% EBacc this year, absolutely the lowest in the country ...because they took iGCSE not GCSE English. Lies, damned lies and statistics.....)

senua Sun 17-Feb-13 21:18:22

I think you're putting far too much emphasis on the wrong thing ... I would be looking at VA scores rather than EBacc, partcuarly given that EBacc is a relatively new measure, and one which was originally applied retrospectively.

I think that it is the retrospective introduction that make the current figures so telling - it shows what the schools were doing whilst they thought no-one was watching. Our school has a good EBacc because they encourged the pupils to have the fabled 'rounded education' and weren't teling the pupils to enter for stupid subjects just for League Table purposes.

OP, can you ask for sight of the current GCSE Options booklet?

teacherwith2kids Sun 17-Feb-13 21:20:22


But some schools have low EBacc figures because they entered pupils for things - like the iGCSE, or RE, or Ancient Greek - that are as much part of a rounded education as those subjects in the EBacc but for various reasons don't get counted....

teacherwith2kids Sun 17-Feb-13 21:23:57

I, for example, would have the EBacc.

My younger brother wouldn't, because he took electronics and art instead of history or geogaphy.

My elder brother wouldn't, because he took music instead of history or geography.

All of us had a rounded education, that got us where we needed to be (Oxbridge, etc)

prh47bridge Sun 17-Feb-13 23:07:34

BoundandRebound - Schools are subject to the Freedom of Information Act. If anyone makes a request they must either provide the information or state the reason for their refusal.

lexie01 Sun 17-Feb-13 23:08:09

EBacc only covers 5 subjects though. Most students these days take 10 or more GCSE's so having a high EBacc score does not preclude a 'rounded education'. I see the EBacc as providing a solid foundation which students can add to as they wish - they can still focus on the arts or science by choosing additional subjects ontop of the EBacc.

I agree entirely with senua. The EBacc was retrospective but I think gove was trying to prove a point and he succeeded . By showing that many state schools were not giving their students the solid educational foundations we thought they were. I went to an awful comp in the 80's but even there I had to take subjects which today would constitute the EBacc.

And to everyone who thinks I am being difficult well yes maybe I am but I don' think I m asking for anything which they shouldn't already possess. Surely any school would have a list of all subjects in which exams were taken and the number of students taking each subject.

senua Mon 18-Feb-13 00:25:38

But some schools have low EBacc figures because they entered pupils for things like the iGCSE, or RE, or Ancient Greek

List of approved exams for inclusion in the EBacc can be found from here. It includes some iGCSE, but not all - I think that some are not recognised.
Ancent Classical Greek is included in EBacc.
Entering for RE doesn't preclude you from getting the EBacc. Both mine got the EBacc and RE. It doesn't have to be an either/or. Many schools enter most pupils for RE because it is a compulsory subject at KS4 so they might as well get a qualification while they are at it; it is not considered as an 'option'.

prh47bridge Mon 18-Feb-13 01:17:54

lexie01 - If you simply want a list of subjects and number of students taking each subject you should tell the school in writing that you are making a Freedom of Information request for that information. They can only refuse such a request if:

- giving the information contravenes the Data Protection Act
- the information is exempt
- it would cost more than £450 to answer your question

If they refuse without giving a reason or even if they state one of these reasons I would write again saying that unless they provide the requested information you will refer the matter to the Information Commissioner's Office. A referral won't cost you anything and will result in the school being forced to provide the information unless they can convince the ICO that they have a valid reason to refuse your request.

lexie01 Mon 18-Feb-13 07:00:27

Thanks for that information bridge. I won't hear anything from them this week as it is half term but I will definitely bear that in mind next week when I am in contact with them again. Thanks

Blissx Mon 18-Feb-13 20:27:48

Your comment lexie01 about the EBacc only covering 5 subjects as most take 10, is misleading. Of the 5, science counts for three and English for two (lang and lit). That is usually 8 in total as a number of GCSEs. Therefore, most year 9s will only have two more subjects they can choose from. Not five more. Not as rounding an education as Gove will have you believe. I really think you are placing too much value on the EBacc and falling into Gove's trap of being 'seen' to do something, but not doing anything of value, yet. Also, the majority of schools will have a prospectus they will provide you with GCSE and A Level subject data when your DC is in Year 6. Can you wait until then?

prh47bridge Tue 19-Feb-13 00:08:21

Blissx - I'm afraid you haven't understood the EBacc. The exam boards all offer an English GCSE which is a single subject and meets the requirements of the EBacc. Similarly science can be a single GCSE - Science Double Award. So Lexie is correct that it is possible for a student to gain the EBacc with only 5 GCSEs.

There is also a new performance measure coming in which will show the proportion of students gaining the EBacc plus three further GCSEs.

prh47bridge Tue 19-Feb-13 00:16:24

Also the EBacc has made a difference. Prior to its introduction there had been a long term drift away from modern foreign languages, history and geography. That has been reversed. In 2010 only 22% of GCSE pupils were entered into exams that would have earned the EBacc whereas 48% of pupils starting GCSE studies last year have the potential to earn the EBacc with their chosen subjects.

One can argue about whether or not this is a good thing, of course.

lljkk Tue 19-Feb-13 09:58:30

History & Geography are still the poor cousins of all other subjects, though. Their classrooms were consistently the tattiest we saw (3 state secondaries last year).

ByTheWay1 Tue 19-Feb-13 11:05:52

Our school releases a grade table in their prospectus - it says how many kids take which subjects, at GCSE and A'Level - what grades they achieved and whether Male/Female, it was part of the reason we chose that school - they actually had 3 girls who took A'Level Physics... no other local non-grammar/non fee school had ANY girls taking the subject at A' level. And only one other+our school had any girls taking A'Level Maths!!!

Wouldn't worry about EBacc at all...

tiredaftertwo Tue 19-Feb-13 23:15:51

If the reason the Ebacc scores are low is that the (for the sake of argument) "level 5 at KS2 kids" are doing GCSEs in astronomy, RS, etc, then a list of subjects taken and grades received would show this.

I bet that isn't the reason.

IMO, it is completely reasonable to ask schools what subjects children take. Why on earth wouldn't parents want to know that?

If a data analyst has to spend hours crunching data to produce a list of subjects taken and grades achieved, then its is hard to see how the school is managing its own performance. Many schools do produce this information, and it allows you to put flesh on the bones of the league tables.

senua Wed 20-Feb-13 08:48:35

I agree TT2 but, on re-reading, I am going to take issue with the OP. She said that the school's "EBacc scores are quite low (20%) which is a worry". The national average is about 15% and the school in question is a Comp, so how is 20% described as "quite low"?

I think that the EBacc is a good idea but I think that it is starting to be corrupted already. The whole idea was to get away from the 'prizes for all' mentality where, the moment something was measured, schools competed to out-do each other by, ahem, inventive means (eg BTec worth 4 GCSE). The EBacc was never meant to be achievable by all, it was meant to be a way to differentiate.
Am I right in thinking that some schools are already being inventive by no longer recommending Eng Lang and Eng Lit, because you only need one English GCSE for the EBacc?

tiggytape Wed 20-Feb-13 09:54:25

If the OP wants the information and values it, there is no reason for the school to withhold it. It doesn't matter that some people think Value Added is a better indication or that yearly variations may make it unrealisable or that valued subjects might be excluded from it.

It is one of my personal bug bears that schools seek to protect parents from information that they might not understand / may get worried about (it can be same with SATS levels, information about setting etc). If a parent wants to know this information, they should be given it.

tiredaftertwo Wed 20-Feb-13 10:07:37

Tiggytape, I completely agree. The more information we have the better. I was given the subjects sat and grades taken at schools with quite poor headline figures, and those data showed that behind the headlines there were plenty of children achieving very highly.

Senua, no-one is saying it should be 100%. But it is perfectly reasonable, and a parent's perogative, to think the national average should be higher than 15%. Five GCSEs at C or higher in basic academic subjects that open doors. And comprehensives vary in their intake, and that information too is now available on the main tables, so ebacc figures can be read in that context.

tiredaftertwo Wed 20-Feb-13 11:39:25

Senua, I agree with you about the gaming.

Maybe the answer is that all schools have to publish all subjects taken and grades achieved.

That, along with the contextual data, could maybe help stop the game playing? It does seem to me that the more data are published, the harder it is to game the system.

prh47bridge Thu 21-Feb-13 00:41:33

Sensua - For clarity, the English qualification for EBacc can be achieved either by taking both Eng Lang and Eng Lit or by taking a single GCSE which has elements of both Eng Lang and Eng Lit. It is not possible for a student to earn the EBacc by doing only one of the two subjects.

prh47bridge Thu 21-Feb-13 00:42:04

Sorry - senua not sensua. Too late at night!

senua Thu 21-Feb-13 08:44:45

You are forgiven prh. It is a (scarily!) common typo!.

Can you do me a link to a reference regarding detailed rules re English please. I've been googling around and there seems to be a lot of loose terminology. I've found one ref which says that Lit is not included and another which says that you need Lang at A*-C and also Lit, but that Lit can be anything from A*-U.

meditrina Thu 21-Feb-13 09:07:05

I though all subjects had to be at a C or higher to count either in any 5 scores or EBACC.

The schools will have the data the OP is requesting. It's just a case of whether it costs them over the prescribed limit to cut and paste the subject totals. As some schools publish similar information on their websites anyhow, I think it would be hard to argue disproportionate cost.

happyAvocado Thu 21-Feb-13 09:17:59

I think introduction of Ebacc is a good thing


However I just read that for instance UCL expects all applicants at least C in a MFL, excluding lating, ancient greek and hebrew

tiggytape Thu 21-Feb-13 09:50:16

That's been common for many years Avocado - even many years ago RG unievrsities wanted a spread of GCSEs, at high grades, including ones that are seen as difficult. Most people don't start any language at all until they are 11 so a C grade or above in a MFL demonstrates that they are fast learners, academic and have opted to take a challenging subject.

lljkk Thu 21-Feb-13 10:12:03

Could OP get the info using FOI? I bet she could, actually.

happyAvocado Thu 21-Feb-13 10:17:49

tiggytape is good to know that they encourage uptake of more academic subjects, however my point was to the common quote of "MFL and Latin" - as they won't accept Latin as a foreign language
my son has Latin at school but it would have been his option to take, however he prefers Art&design and Food Tech - I think for him that would balance out other subjects nicely

lemonmajestic Thu 21-Feb-13 14:24:40

My dds school does publish all the GCSE and A level results by subject including all grades. This information is available on the website and in the school prospectus. So I don't think that your request is unreasonable.

For a non-selective school an EBacc level of 20-30& does sound about right. This could be because only pupils in the top set (or who reach a certain NC level in MFL) take MFL at GCSE. Under the previous government, it was not compulsory for pupils to take a MFL at GCSE and I am aware of some schools locally that stopped offering this as a option at GCSE. They were caught out when the EBacc was introduced but most are offering this now, although it may not show up in their results for a few years.

Some faith schools also have lower EBacc percentages because larger numbers of their pupils take RS as their humanities option which leaves less room for History and Geography which are the 2 humanities required for the EBacc.


Blissx Thu 21-Feb-13 16:05:50

Prh47bridge-I didn't mean what you thought I meant! Crossed wires I think and sorry if I didn't make myself clear. I meant that I interpreted what lexie01 thought that as most pupils get 10 GCSEs and as the EBacc covers 5 subjects, pupils can still get a rounded education by doing 5 more subjects. I was just pointing out that due to the fact that most pupils will take Double English and Double/Triple Science, those "10" GCSEs are often not made up of 10 separate subjects and therefore not as rounded as could be first thought. Does that make sense?

Blissx Thu 21-Feb-13 16:12:10

Also, I'm not sure what you mean by "earn the EBacc". The EBacc Certificate is probably not going through as stated by Gove a few weeks ago that it would be scrapped, which is what pupils would have "earnt". The current EBacc is purely a school measure on how many students gained GCSEs in the EBacc subjects at a particular school. Lexie01, I hope you get the data you want after Half Term and can help you with your decision making.

lexie01 Thu 21-Feb-13 23:05:34

Thank you so much blissx and everyone for your comments. I have been away for a few days hence the lack of reponse. Isn't it amazing how schools differ in terms of the information they provide parents. Some seem to trust parents to make an informed opinion on all the facts whilst some seem to hide what they deem to be slightly negative information. If my daughters prospective school were open and honest about these stats and what they doing to improve the situation I really wouldn't have a problem. It is the fact that they are seemingly trying to hide them that concerns me and makes me now determined to find the answers.

I will update this post next week and let you all know what happens. Thanks everyone once again x

prh47bridge Thu 21-Feb-13 23:16:07

Blissx - The EBC which would have replaced some GCSEs is not going through but there is still the possibility that at some point students will be awarded a certificate for achieving the EBacc. And employers may well be interested in whether or not a student got the necessary GCSEs, so I think pupils will be viewed as "earning" the EBacc.

senuaa - There is an Excel spreadsheet with a list of the qualifications that count towards the EBacc (covering all subjects, not just English) here. There is a separate sheet for each subject. Be warned that you need to scroll up on each sheet to see the full list. And don't forget to check the notes for each qualification.

senua Fri 22-Feb-13 09:40:17

Thanks prh but that was one of the websites that I googled. It didn't seem right so I was wondering if I had misunderstood it.
Note (b) on the English page says "Where the English Language and English Literature GCSE/iGCSE option is chosen exams in both must be taken (although not necessarily provided by the same exam board) and a C grade or above achieved in English Language and an A*-G grade or U awarded in English Literature."

Am I right in thinking that either:
1) you pass a combined Lang&Lit paper, or
2) you have to pass the Lang paper but for the Lit paper, as long as you enter for and make some attempt at exams/coursework, no-ones cares what the actual result is?

prh47bridge Fri 22-Feb-13 13:10:36

Yes, that is correct. No idea what the rationale is but I agree it seems odd.

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