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14-19 Education – A New Baccalaureate – K. Baker

February 2, 2017

1419anbLord Baker, architect of the Education Reform Act of 1988, has published a report on the future of the EBacc and the place of RE within it.

Like Michael Gove more recently, Baker assumed that RE was already catered for by existing law but both men could have inadvertently caused RE’s marginalisation.

In Baker’s case, a debate in the house of lords assured RE’s future and led to its flourishing .

After Gove, things look less good for RE.

About the place of RE in the curriculum, Baker said:

‘The present EBacc gives students little choice of subjects, including only seven academic GCSEs, and we think it is a mistake. I’m not against maths and English, of course, but this has squeezed out other subjects. Design Technology subjects have falling entries: down by 30 per cent since 2010— a deliberate moue, and a huge mistake.

‘Many youngsters are disengaged by their study of a narrow range of subjects they have not chosen, and you can learn by hand as well as by brain. I don’t think it will help them to only study a narrow range of the most academic subjects.

‘In my proposal, for example, computer studies should be included: this is vital in a fast-changing digital world. My proposal also includes the humanities subjects geography and history, and also modern foreign Languages and religious studies. I see it as very important to give pupils access to [the] Religious Studies GCSE, which leads not only to the study of religion but also to engagement with ethics dilemmas. For example, my own 16- and 17-year-old grandchildren have been debating very important issues about assisted dying in their RS.

It’s an important subject, alongside history and geography.

‘I went to a Church of England primary school where we encountered religion, not in a tub-thumping manner, but in a useful way — not looking at religious extremism, but understanding religion.

‘The EBacc is a wrong direction for the English education system.

Baker proposes to broaden the Government’s English Baccalaureate (EBacc), taking it away from the curriculum of the early Twentieth Century and ensuring that it offers all young people the chance to develop a range of skills.
The new broader Baccalaureate would include:

  • English
  • Maths
  • Two science GCSEs – one of which could be computer science
  • A creative GCSE from a list which would include art and design, music, dance and drama
  • A humanities GCSE from a list which would include history, geography, religious education and foreign languages
  • A design and technology GCSE or an approved technical award. Examples include the Cambridge National Certificate in Engineering and the Pearson BTEC First Award in Construction and the Built Environment.

The report goes further to suggest that we should move to treating 14-19 as a unified phase of learning, allowing young people and teachers more flexibility to ensure that everyone can fulfil their talents by the age of 19.


15 million jobs are at risk from automation. Cars and lorries are becoming driverless, algorithms are writing company accounts and 3D printers are building bridges.

The labour market will look very different after the shock of automation. The skills required in the service sector will increasingly be digital. Human input will focus on non-routine tasks that require imagination and judgement – from performing or culinary arts to installing complex heat pumps. People will increasingly be self-employed and earning from a number of sources through the ‘gig economy’.

Our workforce needs a new set of skills to succeed. Ministers want 90% of young people to take the EBacc, which currently consists of a minimum of seven GCSEs in defined academic subjects. It is nearly the reincarnation of a curriculum first enshrined in legislation over a century ago: the Secondary Regulations 1904 required the teaching of English, maths, science, history, geography, a foreign language, the very same subjects included in the EBacc. The main difference was that back in 1904, ‘drawing’ was also included in the secondary curriculum

In the 19th century, Prince Albert was one of many who called for more and better technical and commercial education of the kind that might prepare boys – and occasionally girls – for employment in manufacturing, the trades and commerce. Higher grade schools were an early example of schools which provided this form of education.

However, they faced great resistance, mainly from men whose own direct experience of education was based on the classical curriculum provided by English public schools. One such individual was Robert Morant, who was educated at Winchester and Oxford before serving as advisor to the King of Siam.

In 1902, Morant was appointed Secretary to the Board of Education. He introduced the Secondary Regulations 1904, which required pupils in secondary schools to study English, maths, science, geography, history, a foreign language and drawing. Girls could also study ‘practical housewifery’ and both boys and girls were expected to undertake some physical exercise and manual work. The effect of the Regulations was to limit full-time secondary education to the kind of academic subjects found in grammar schools.

Morant did accept the value of part-time technical education for children who left school at the age of 12, and from 1905, the Board of Education awarded grants to Technical Institutes so they could provide day classes for children aged 13 to 16. This led – in time, and very slowly – to the re-emergence of full-time technical programmes for young people aged 13 and over. In 1913, there were 37 Junior Technical Schools across England and Wales, situated within existing Technical Colleges and Institutes established to train and educate adult workers. By 1937, the number of Junior Technical Schools had risen to 248, some of which occupied their own premises.

By then, of course, Morant had long gone and there was a growing appetite for technical and vocational education. The Spens Report, published by HMSO in 1938, made recommendations for “Secondary Education with Special Reference to Grammar Schools and Technical High Schools”. Spens deplored the “marked disinclination to deviate to any considerable extent from the main lines of the traditional grammar school curriculum”, and recommended that a new generation of technical schools should be developed alongside the country’s grammar schools.

This was the backdrop to war-time plans for the general reform of education which culminated in the great Education Act of 1944. One point was settled as early as 1941: the age of transfer from primary to secondary education. The head of the Board of Education’s Technical Branch, H B Wallis, strongly supported the Spens Report’s recommendation to expand technical education. Based on his knowledge of Junior Technical Schools, Wallis argued that young people should have a common education up to the age of 13. Before that age, pupils’ aptitudes and interests were unclear; by that age, they had a clearer idea of where their strengths and ambitions lay.

However, Wallis faced opposition from his opposite number in the Secondary Branch on the grounds that grammar schools selected their pupils at 11. In March 1941, the Permanent Secretary, Maurice Holmes, came down in favour of transfer at 11, stating that “transfer at 13+ would take many years to achieve, whereas transfer at 11+ could be secured within five”

The Chief Executive of the Design and Technology Association, Richard Green, sums up the importance of his subject in these terms:

Design and technology is the only National Curriculum subject in primary and secondary schools where pupils design and make products that have to work in order to be successful. It is also the only subject in the National Curriculum where practical electronics is taught and where pupils learn to code in order to control the products they have designed and made. It makes use of industry standard 3D solid modelling software and CNC manufacturing, including 3D printing in a growing number of schools. It is a rigorous and challenging subject which teaches design and technical skills and knowledge that are important for all pupils and, in addition, it opens pupils’ eyes to careers in the creative industries, engineering and manufacturing – the vital, wealth creating sectors of the economy.

In short, design and technology is every bit as important as modern foreign languages, if not more so.Yet provisional figures show that D&T is one of a number of non-EBacc subjects falling out of favour as schools switch to a more limited EBacc diet.

In my vision for 2025, every city and sub-region will have specialist 14-19 colleges working in local clusters alongside mainstream schools and colleges. This will provide direct access to programmes and subjects rooted in the needs of the economy. Based on the recommendations of the Sainsbury panel, there will be fifteen broad technical routes:

Agriculture, environmental and animal care

Business and administration

Catering and hospitality

Childcare and education


Creative and design


Engineering and manufacturing

Hair and beauty

Health and science

Legal, finance and accounting

Protective services

Sales, marketing and procurement

Social care

Transport and logistics

With hindsight, I now wish I had ended the National Curriculum at 14. We had assumed that our curriculum would meet the needs of all 14-16 year olds. Experienceproved that we had been too prescriptive.

Over half of the schools visited attributed improved attendance to the availability of more appropriate courses for students …

Young people of low attainment at age 11 achieve below average results at 16, despite the best endeavours of their teachers. No magic wand, no silver bullet, will radically change this, and a narrowly academic EBacc will almost certainly make it worse.

We have to prepare young people for jobs that do not exist yet, and for flexible ways of working. This means looking afresh at our school curriculum and building in the right mix of knowledge, skills, practice and teamwork so that young people are ready for whatever the Fourth Industrial Revolution throws their way.

The report is online here

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