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Ebacc - why should the kids care?

(38 Posts)
AntiJamDidi Wed 19-Mar-14 23:03:33

I am a teacher. I have a year 9 form who are currently picking their options (the deadline is some time next week) and I am supposed to be offering guidance about this (based on a 10 minute "training" on careers guidance, ha!!). I have been given a list of pupils who "should" be doing the Ebacc.

I just don't understand why the kids should care about having this particular combination of subjects. The high-flyers academically have mostly chosen to do those subjects anyway and have had no need of guidance. The least academically able are advised into more vocational/practical subjects anyway. The difficulty I'm having is whith the middlish kids, whose current levels predict that they will probably get 5 A*-C grades but will have to work really hard for them. They are most likely to go to college for sixth form to do something other than A-levels, and start working without university.

Why would these kids care about an Ebacc? What's in it for them? Why choose to do French (and they all seem happy to do either History or Geography, it's French that's their sticking point) where they will have to work really hard to get a C (and otherwise it's a bit pointless doing it anyway) if that means they ahve to drop a subject that they would enjoy more and be better at? I really don't have any answers to this, but I'm being pressured to persuade them to do the Ebacc because that will look better for the school on the league tables.

Nocomet Wed 19-Mar-14 23:13:31

As far as I can see it's of no value to most DCs.
Even for the most able only a very few non language courses stipulate an MFL. Non of the biological science stuff DD1 is interested in does.

She's dyslexic, she struggles enough to spell in English, she wouldn't have passed French in a million years and her other grades would have suffered as a result of her trying.

Fortunately our careers teacher just smiled and signed the we have discussed the EBAC box which allowed her to do Geog, art, drama and music, ie things she was likely to enjoy and PASS

AntiJamDidi Wed 19-Mar-14 23:19:18

I'm glad you have a sensible careers teacher Nocomet. I am finding it increasingly difficult to tow the party line of "you should be doing the Ebacc" when I see no benefit to the child in doing that. Surely benefit to the child should be the most important part of these decisions.

Picturesinthefirelight Wed 19-Mar-14 23:42:29

Wellll. I do think that all children should study an mfl as we live in an ever decreasing world with more & more opportunities abroad

At dds school though the less academic children follow a non gcse language course

Dd is only in year 7 & is a high flyer academically but neither of us could give a stuff about the ebacc.

Sm I correct in thinking RS isn't counted as a humanity. If so on her current choices she won't be an ebacc student (she adores the philosophy & ethics side of RS as an atheist.

MillyMollyMama Thu 20-Mar-14 00:11:01

I think for anyone going to university, a wide spread of GCSEs is surely better than a narrow group meaning pupils have specialised at 13/14. An MFL should be included. However for pupils going to the local collage it is not necessary and the school should recognise this. I believe the word "General" (as in General CSE) is the key here. We should not narrow down education so early. Lots of countries don't narrow it down at degree level! We are so negative about MFLs here? Why would parents not value an MFL GCSE? When I was at school the future Doctors, dentists, engineers, physicists et al all did an MFL at O level whether they "needed" it or not. They did it because a wide range of subjects was valued and it demonstrated you had actually received an academic and well rounded education. Maybe linguists should give up Science GCSEs? They don't need them, do they? But their education would be diminished without them.

Nocomet Thu 20-Mar-14 00:47:59

Yes our careers teacher is lovely and run of her feet (as I expect you are) by the council cutting all her back up.

She knew which French set DD1 had been in and didn't need to be told how little DD1 had learnt in the previous year.

We are in the middle of nowhere with Grammar and private schools a far easier commute, MFL teachers are hard to get and tend to leave.

Nocomet Thu 20-Mar-14 00:56:27

Our RG physicist (me) didn't no MFL nor did most of our scientists.

Similar rurak school with awful French teachers and the added complication of being in a 100% English soeaking bit if Wales.

No one saw any point in learning Welsh although a few did it because the head of Welsh was our one decent language teacher.

My dear English friend ended up in a class of one doing Welsh A kevek because she needed an MFL to do speach therapy at imperial and they didn't mind what it was.

Nocomet Thu 20-Mar-14 00:57:37

[Blush] this kindle tries to speak a foreign language.

homework Thu 20-Mar-14 07:35:38

My take on this is if child is going to fail the subject what's the point in doing it , it's not going to further the school league tables .
So they may as well choice a subject that they do stand a chance in passing , this will then further there position on said league tables , getting 5 gcse in grades c or above.
What's more important for child in this day and age is to get gcse in subjects they enjoy and have a chance of passing. Then doing stuff they fail at , knocking there self esteem.

tiggytape Thu 20-Mar-14 09:30:30

Some unis prefer prospective students have the EBacc range of subjects
One that I know of (UCL) has a MFL requirement for most courses. Undergraduates without a C grade or above have to study a MFL as undergraduates.

They say: "UCL requires that all applicants have a GCSE at grade A*-C in a modern foreign language. It is fine for this to be a ‘community language’ (for example, a modern foreign language that you speak at home with your family), as long as you have achieved an official GCSE qualification in it."

It shows a broad mix of capabilities and also highlights different skills. MFLs are seen as difficult. Many people certainly find them so and therefore they have added credibility.

All of that though assumes a student is aiming for a traditional course at a traditional university. If that is the case then they would be well advised to do the EBacc. Children following different paths won't have that same requirements and children who will definitely get below a C grade in an MFL should not be pressured into taking it since they cannot earn the EBacc without at least a C and it is better they pass a subject they enjoy and are good at instead.

senua Thu 20-Mar-14 09:53:17

For some reason this country has a problem with languages. Like Maths, it seems acceptable to say "I can't do it".
France is full of children who somehow manage to learn French, Germany full of German-speakers. Furthermore, they can speak their native language and English. So why do we think that it is so difficult to attempt more than one language? I could understand people being wary of, for example, Mandarin because it is so far removed from our experience but French/Romance and German languages form the basis of English for goodness sake.

If you really think that a pupil cannot do a language then don't encourage them to do the GCSE, but - schoolwide - it should not be written off as 'not for the likes of us'.

Nocomet Thu 20-Mar-14 10:18:34

This country does indeed have a problem with languages, but that problem goes back 40 odd years and can not be cured over night by Gove inventing the EBAC.

MFL teaching in this country had been very patchy, outside private and grammar schools, for a very very long time.

Not only did no one from my school leave with a enough MFL ability to do languages at university and one day become an MFL teacher. We didn't even leave with enough French to help our own DCs.

I'm happy for DD2 to do French because she can do it with no support, but no way would I have encouraged my dyslexic DD1.

You cannot undo decades of neglect with a single government pronouncement and no funding.

(And that's before you add in the Web being in English and DCs seeing no point at all in MFLs when the whole world speaks English anyway)

AntiJamDidi Thu 20-Mar-14 12:41:38

Well I personally loved languages when I was at school, I was gutted that I didn't have enough option choices to be able to do both French and German. That doesn't mean that all dcs will enjoy them, and tbh the kids that are set against it are the ones who are unlikely to want to move to France in the future (and French is the only language offered to anyone not in the top set for languages). The trend in this area is for the high-flyers to move away to university but the middle and low ability kids tend to stay close to home. There are obviously exceptions to this but those people then choose to study the language of the country they are moving to when they are planning to move there.

The pupils who have plans to go to university have all chosen to do a wide range of subjects, mostly involving Ebacc subjects just because that's what they would always have chosen. It's those who don't plan on going to university (and tbh would struggle with traditional A levels or traditional degrees but would do much better with vocational subjects) who are the ones who don't want to do French, and I can see their point, what benefit is there for them in doing that?

I was an academic high-flyer who went to a traditional university to study a traditional subject (Maths) and I didn't have the right combination of subjects to count as an Ebacc now. I just didn't have enough options to do everything I wanted to do so I sacrificed History in order to study something I enjoyed more. I do still have a wide range of subjects at GCSE, but not specifically Ebacc subjects.

MaddAddam Thu 20-Mar-14 14:37:06

They should care if they might want to apply to the more rigorous universities because the Ebacc is a shorthand for "reasonable spread of academic subjects". Yes you can omit a humanity and do say RE and art and it won't make a huge difference, but the principle behind it is of a broad based general, but academically oriented, education.

AntiJamDidi Thu 20-Mar-14 18:14:05

Those aren't the kids I'm talking about though, the ones who have a chance of going to a good uni are already choosing to do those subjects. It's the middle of the road kids that I'm supposed to persuade to do it when university will most likely be out of their reach. Why should those middle kids care about it? I don't think they should, it won't benefit them at all.

tiggytape Thu 20-Mar-14 18:51:00

Nationally, about 40% of all 18 and 19 year olds go to university so that definitely includes some students who would be considered 'middle of the road' as opposed to top academic high fliers. Those students will also need GCSE subjects that appeal to universities - competition is tough for places.

There will be children in the middle groups who will potentially go on to do much better with just 3 or 4 subjects in 6th form than they do in Year 11. However they will still be judged on their GCSE results and choices to some extent so it would be unhelpful for them to limit their options by avoiding tough but achievable subjects in favour of the more enjoyable and 'easier' ones.

I understand that this wouldn't apply to pupils who will struggle to get many or any GCSE passes at all and to put pressure on them to do more academic subjects won't help.

AntiJamDidi Thu 20-Mar-14 21:12:31

Absolutely, there will be middle of the road kids who go on to university, we have plenty of those at our school. The universities they go to do not insist on them having an Ebacc though. Most universities ask for a range of academic subjects at GCSE, they do NOT specify that they should be specifically one humanities subject and one MFL, just a range of subjects. Why should MFL be considered more worthy than Music? Or History more worthy than RE? Why should an aspiring computer programmer have to take MFL when that means she can't take both Computer Science and Electronics, both of which are demanding academic subjects but aren't part of the ebacc?

MillyMollyMama Thu 20-Mar-14 21:18:55

Senua. I totally agree with you. We have to put years of poor teaching behind us and value languages. English speaking people from abroad are able to get jobs in more countries because their skills are more portable. We still think we are too exclusive to bother.

Nocomet Thu 20-Mar-14 21:31:07

But if we are going to value MFL, we cannot sweep away years of neglect over night.

We can not suddenly fill every secondary school with inspiring MFL teachers when they don't exist (or only apply for jobs in non comprehensives).

We need to to teach MFL in primary schools so DCs enter secondary ready to study them.

DD2 did French club at primary and has a way better attitude to French than she does to German. Their German teacher threw them in at the deep end, lost 90% of them and now resorts to being the only teacher who puts them in detention. Understandably they think he's a jerk.

If set one think your getting it wrong, you are getting it wrong. Even if it's not you who choose the syllabus and the class are a bit prone to chatting.

RiversideMum Sat 22-Mar-14 19:43:52

AFAIK UCL is the only university that specifically mentions a MFL. My daughter is in Y13 and none of the unis she looked at specifies Ebacc.

Our teaching of MFL is an issue. We need to start in infants and have proper language teachers. Teacher training for primary does not even specify a language, and yet we are now expected to teach it. It's not like you can "read up" on a language like you can if you're rusty on certain periods of history.

tiggytape Sat 22-Mar-14 19:56:49

You are right Riverside - as far as I know UCL is the only RG uni that actually spells it out but it is still seen as 'a good one to have' by many others too. That's not to say all is lost of you don't have it but, when competition is so fierce for some courses and when GCSE subjects and results are increasingly factored in (they always have been to some extent) then why not increase your chances if you can?
If uni is definitely not an option or if gaining a decent grade in it is definitely not an option then there isn't the same decision to make.

And I do agree with your other points but virtually every child who get an A*-C grade in a MFL will have only really picked it up at secondary school. It may not be an ideal way to learn a language and plenty would say it is far from adequate but, in terms of bagging a decent GCSE grade in a MFL, it is enough to enable students to do that.

mumslife Sat 22-Mar-14 22:26:54

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MillyMollyMama Sun 23-Mar-14 00:28:05

Computer Science and Electronics are not necessary for anyone at GCSE either though! These subjects are specialising too early and a broad range of subjects is still best. Computer Science and Electronics can be studied later by pupils who have Maths and Sciences. History is more demanding than RE imo. We just have a society where no-one is allowed to fail so we allow children to pick subjects which are not balanced or a good preparation for academic A levels. There are plenty of children who could do academic subjects but prefer easier ones thereby limiting their opportunities later. The league tables mean that schools agree with this stance.

ravenAK Sun 23-Mar-14 00:57:36

I'm a year 9 tutor. My lot have just picked their options.

The advice I've given them is that they really should continue with both a language & with a humanity to GCSE, if they are able to achieve a C or above & unless they utterly hate the subject.

Like OP I've found that the Humanity subject isn't a problem; it's MFL that is problematic for some. I agree with senua that we shouldn't be tolerating a culture of 'can't do languages' when the rest of Europe seems to manage; & yes we should be starting languages earlier & raising their profile.

Computer Science & Electronics are both great, but tbh if my dc was an aspiring programmer, I'd still definitely be advising choosing one & continuing with a language. It's way too early to be specialising if that means dumping a whole subject area.

Having said all that, there is precious little point forcing anyone to do a subject if they are going to a) loathe every minute of it & b) not come out with a useful grade anyway.

So I've been asking my tutees (we've just had tutor review meetings to discuss options) what they're minded to take. If a mid/higher achiever has no MFL in the mix, I've pointed out that no-one's quite sure how important the Ebacc will be in future & suggested that taking a language would almost certainly be a good idea. If they react like they're Christopher Lee & I've just shoved a garlic baguette at them, then fairynuff, it's their choice.

If I'm talking to a kid whom I know to be projected a D or lower in MFL, I'm going to ask if they enjoy French. If so, great; if not, & they could get a higher grade in a subject they do enjoy, it seems a no-brainer - choose something else.

At no point did it occur to me to worry about the league tables! The Head & SLG get paid to do that. I'm doing my job as a form tutor by advising my tutees to take the combo that'll most benefit them, not the school's Ebacc uptake figures.

sashh Sun 23-Mar-14 08:56:49

You already have your answer, this is about the school and the league tables and not about the child.

I was in a similar position at my options time, I was being pressured to do French which I was crap at, I'm also dyslexic butt he school didn't believe it existed.

I had the advantage of being able to point out that an O Level was better than a CSE and the Art teacher was prepared to teach me in the MFL slot.

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