I am both exasperated and amused by the reaction to the introduction of the English Baccalaureate. The response has been much the same as when school ‘league tables’ were introduced, with an additional complaint thrown in for good measure. The familiar concern is along the lines of different populations and diverse backgrounds making any such measurement ‘unfair’, or that some children are better suited to vocational study. I have some, but not much, sympathy for this view; because whilst the make-up of the school provides context for the answer, it is irrelevant to whether the question should be asked.
As an average parent living in an average area, I fully expect there to be disparity between my local schools and those in a more affluent part of the country; where practically possible, I also have every right to know what those differences are.
The English Baccalaureate takes existing data and measures how many pupils achieved passing grades in five ‘core’ subjects; maths, English, two science, one foreign language and either history or geography. There is no additional work for school, teacher or (most importantly) pupil, yet the same tired arguments have resurfaced along with a new and equally irrelevant grievance; that this measurement has been applied retrospectively. I might as well complain that a distance once measured in yards is now given in metres.
And what’s to stop the IPPR, teachers unions or other agitators from crunching the data on a different set of subjects, creating their own Baccalaureate if you will? Indeed, the correct question for the Commons Select Committee is not “why those particular subjects” but, given the internet, why not in addition allow the public to compare schools based on selected subjects of their own? It’s only information, why so afraid?
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