20% of school leavers in London can’t read confidently – Is EBacc the answer?
The Evening Standard has focused recently on illiteracy in London. I’ve always thought that the situation is very bad, what I did not expect are the actual figures published in the Evening Standard of 3rd June 2011. Statistics such as: 20% of school leavers are unable to read and write confidently; 50% of all employers have paid for remedial training for staff who lack a basic grasp of English and Maths. What they call Maths is actually basic arithmetic in most cases; however, that is a different story altogether.
It was reported in the TES (Times Educational Supplement) of 3rd June that Matt Grist, senior researcher at Demos suggests that the EBacc may be too tasking for certain students to achieve and that there should be an alternative. This sort of comment worries me immensely. He suggested that only upper middle class people could achieve it. He is utterly wrong. The government has not suggested that we should get rid of BTech or GNVQ. It is simply proposing a new yardstick to measure achievement among school leavers. This suggestion is very patronising and it is the sort of nonsense that is expected from the same group of people who do not believe in competitive sports in schools. This sort of belief is shared by teachers who think Oxbridge is too elitist and discourages their students from applying to the top universities in the country.
Yes, only 15 % of school leavers achieved the EBacc last year and the figure in most grammar schools is less than 35%. These facts are no reason not to set high standards, embrace the EBacc and work with the government to make it a success. What we have to bear in mind is that the EBacc is a new measuring stick, which the government recently introduced. It will be wrong for universities and employers to base the selection criteria on the EBacc with immediate effect, without giving people time to adjust to the new requirement. It is what sensible and well-informed parents have always known and some of them have battled with their children and the child’s school to allow flexibility in the timetable so that young people can choose a variety of subjects, thereby widening their knowledge in many areas of life. We should all congratulate the education secretary for introducing it.
I find it extremely patronising for people to say that asking young people to meet the requirements of the EBacc is too steep a hill for many young people to climb. Dr Grist also argues that it is children from the upper classes who are able to achieve this. Any committed teacher with a reasonable knowledge of the education system, and who is a good observer of teenagers, knows that the vast majority of young people have what it takes to achieve the EBacc. What we are asking for is at least a C grade in English, Maths, Core and Additional Science, one of French, German or any other modern or ancient language and finally either History or Geography. I accept that the environment in which many young people find themselves makes this achievement a challenge. What I do not accept is that they lack the intelligence to do it or that there are not enough resources in schools to equip them in meeting the requirements. The requirement of the EBacc is necessary for a well-informed and productive society in a modern world, in which young people have a vital role to play. We have to remember that we are in an ageing society and for coerciveness, there is a limit to how many people we can import from India, China, Eastern Europe and Africa. The long-term aim has to be to educate our own young people so that we can have a better future and have people to work and pay for our pensions. Quoting from an article in the Evening Standard, Mr Norman Barr, the boss of an Islington-based building firm â€œmany school leavers are ill disciplined and can hardly read or write. Mr Barr said that he had to hire Eastern Europeans to write worksheets because the standard of English among these foreigners is a lot better than that of our own school leavers. We have a serious problem and we have to accept it and work honestly and effectively in order to put it right.
The United Kingdom has one of the highest television audiences in the world and our knowledge of celebrity gossip is only second to that of America. It would be rather nice if we could replicate our success in celebrity culture with having young people who are knowledgeable in areas of life that will secure our economic and future prosperity.
As a final thought, we have created a video outlining our own thoughts on the EBacc below.
Video for EBacc – https://excelinkeysubjects-1.wistia.com/medias/ddf098ghso