The Effects of the English Baccalaureate

Our research for the Department for Education looks at how the EBacc has affected schools' curriculum offer, and pupils' decisions about the GCSE subjects they study.

Ipsos was commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) to carry out research on the effects of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc). The research was undertaken in June and July 2012. The research comprised a quantitative (online and telephone) survey of 618 teachers and qualitative research with schools, pupils and parents/carers. A similar survey was carried out in 2011.

The survey findings showed there was no significant change since 2011 in the proportion of Year 9 pupils who have chosen to take the EBacc combination of subjects, nor in the proportion of pupils taking individual EBacc subjects at GCSE. In 2012, 49% of Year 9 pupils have taken subject combinations that could lead to them achieving the EBacc, which is statistically in line with the uptake of 46% in 2011.

The great majority of schools give at least some of their pupils the opportunity to study towards the EBacc. Ninety eight percent of schools offer a choice of GCSE subjects that enable their pupils to study for the EBacc – i.e. English; Maths; either double or triple science; either history or geography; and a language. Over nine in ten schools say they have given pupils (93%) and/or parents/carers (94%) advice or information regarding the EBacc. The case study work highlighted that there was some variation in the messages schools gave to pupils: some schools told pupils the EBacc would be important for their future career and university choices, while some schools saw the EBacc purely as a school performance measure. Case study schools where pupils had historically opted for academic subjects often did not encourage their pupils to study towards the EBacc (because the majority would select these subjects anyway). By contrast, some case study schools where pupils were less likely naturally to opt for the EBacc subjects provided more encouragement – at least to their more academic pupils – to study these subjects.

The qualitative case studies highlighted that the way in which pupils select their GCSEs is largely unchanged by the EBacc: pupils select subjects they enjoy and are good at, and those which will help towards their career choices (if known). Many pupils do not opt for the EBacc combination because their talents and preferences lay elsewhere. From the case study work, the effect of the EBacc was most evident in encouraging pupils to study languages where they would not otherwise have chosen to do so.

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