It’s a couple of weeks old as news now but the demise of plans for an ‘English Baccalaureate’ and its replacement by a new GCSE and the creation of a ‘Performance Eight’ measure of achievement in a slightly expanded range of core subjects.
This brought back memories of my own experience of picking course options as the guinea-pig cohort for the first GCSEs to replace O-Levels. At the time rumour was circulating that there was to be a special award given to those with A-C grade GCSEs in a framework of subjects to include at least one science, one language, one humanity and one practical subject. Finding the lure of an extra certificate too hard to resist, I quickly picked history and french and then added to these (with greater doubts and much to the chagrin of my music teacher) latin, physics and design and communication, to give me my qualifying spread of options. Having made the selection, I was slightly disappointed that the proposed certificate never saw the light of day for that first cohort of GCSE graduands – although I learned a lot of unexpectedly enjoyable stuff in the process. But reading about the new GCSE plans made me reflect on what continuities exist (despite the intention of radical reform) in conservative education policy over the last 25 years.
The moderately encouraging news in the latest announcement is that Religious Education is back within the fold as a subject which can be included within this ‘performance eight’, having been excluded from the list of core subjects for the EBacc (something which was beginning to have a negative effect on its prioritisation within schools). However, latest reports suggest that RE is not to be eligible as one of the ‘humanities’ options but simply as an ‘other’ subject, which many RE experts believe will still result in the subject being seen as a second-class option.