What is the English Baccalaureate (EBacc)?

The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) is a performance measure showing the proportion of children in a secondary school who achieve a Grade C or more in core academic subjects - English, maths, a science, history or geography and a language

Secondary school age girls studying in a libraryThe English Baccalaureate, or EBacc, as it is also known, is basically a performance measure showing the proportion of children in a secondary school who achieve at least a Grade C in core academic subjects.

The qualifications which make up a pupil’s EBacc score are English, maths, the sciences (including computer science), history or geography and a language.

The English Baccalaureate was introduced by the Department for Education in 2010 to encourage students to study a broad range of core subjects to help them go on to study further and higher education courses.

The EBacc scores for schools and pupils also help parents decide which secondary schools, for Key Stage 4 GCSE studies, to send their children to.

Not all students study the English Baccalaureate.

The government has pledged that at least three-quarters of all pupils in state and independent schools will study EBacc subjects by 2022.

Which subjects can be chosen for the English Baccalaureate?

As we’ve discussed, there are five main areas of study for the EBacc, although there is some flexibility in terms of which subjects can be studied.

For example, there are more than 60 different types of course which qualify for the maths requirement.

English language is required for the EBacc and not English literature.

There is a choice between geography and history for the humanities component, with ancient history also allowed in this category.

The science requirement now includes an option to study computer science, as well as the traditional disciplines of chemistry, physics and biology.

Students taking the English Baccalaureate only have to choose one language, with Latin, classical Greek, Biblical Hebrew and Welsh on the list, as well as the more popular European languages like French, Spanish and Italian.

How is a school’s English Baccalaureate score calculated?

Until this year, the EBacc attainment measure indicated how many students attained GCSE qualifications with at least a Grade 5 in English and maths and also Grade C, or above, in a science subject, a language, plus history or geography.

From 2018, however, the measure is now the school’s average EBacc score for exam results.

An individual pupil’s score is calculated initially by taking an average of points attained in the five English Baccalaureate subjects.

And the school’s EBacc rating is arrived at by adding the average scores for each student after GCSE results are announced and then dividing that by the number of pupils taking the exams.

How important is the English Baccalaureate in a university application?

Many families will already be exploring a child’s university options before they begin studying their GCSEs.

A historic, English university building

It’s important to recognise that the English Baccalaureate is not something universities base their decisions on when it comes to offering places to students.

There is a value in studying the EBacc, however. Those pupils who have done so will be able to demonstrate they’ve studied a broad range of core subjects.

Relevant A-levels are crucially important when it comes to securing a place on specific university courses but if that student has also shown they have a good all-round education behind them, through taking the EBacc, then that strengthens their case even more.

For teenagers seeking a place at one of the UK’s top universities – those in the Russell Group – there are some extra things to consider with the English Baccalaureate.

Some of the academic subjects in EBacc are important to the likes of Cambridge and Oxford University, such as English and maths and a modern foreign language is also prized.

The advice given by clearing houses and university application bodies is to check the websites of individual universities to see what qualifications are important for particular courses.

Doing this before a child embarks on their English Baccalaureate studies will put them in the best possible position further down the line when they come to applying for a place at a chosen university.

What is the difference between the English Baccalaureate and the International Baccalaureate?

Some parents may be confused by the English Baccalaureate and how it relates to the International Baccalaureate.

They are not the same thing, in fact they are very different.

The International Baccalaureate comprises six subjects and is a qualification accepted by educational establishments around the world.

It is made up of three higher level subjects and an extra discipline which can be an extended essay.

International Baccalaureate studies also involve compulsory courses and also a part which relates to something learned outside school from a real life situation.

So, what is the English Baccalaureate? It’s a way to compare secondary schools to see how many of their students received good grades in their GCSEs. But not all subjects count towards it – only a certain few, considered the ‘core’ subjects.

Now we’ve explained the mysteries of the EBacc, do you have any other questions about education? If so you’ll find the EQ Knowledge Bank a valuable resource. We have a whole host of articles, written by teachers and educationalists, each one aimed at answering a specific question asked by parents. And it’s not all about education – we also cover children’s health, their safety and important issues such as protection from bullies. It’s well worth a look!

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