EBacc becomes more challenging with the new GCSE grading system of 9 to 1

The goal post for measuring success at the age of 16 moved – the new GCSE Grading system of 9 to 1 will make EBaac more difficult to achieve

Since the EBacc (the English Baccalaureate) was introduced in 2010, the proportion of young people meeting the EBacc criteria has steadily increased. The worrying issue at present is that due to a new, more rigorous requirement the government is introducing from the summer of 2017, a smaller percentage of young people will achieve the EBacc. In my next two articles, I will explain what the issues are and why teachers, headteachers, students and parents are concerned. The new stringent criteria, as well as what the EBacc is, will be explored in detail. Before I explain the exact measure that the government has put in place, it would be helpful to highlight what the EBacc is and to look at a few figures in the history of the English Baccalaureate.

The EBacc – the English Baccalaureate – was introduced in 2010 by the then Education Secretary, Michael Gove. It was set up as a new yardstick for measuring success at GCSE level. One of the main reasons it was introduced is that as the proportion of 16 year olds who are achieving 5 grades A* to C at GCSE keeps rising every year, there is concern that the GCSE is getting easier – a notion some people refer to as ‘dumbing down’ or a race to the bottom. The EBacc was aimed at raising standards among 16 year olds who are leaving school. One piece of evidence that was given by many to support the argument for dumbing down is the fact that year in, year out the proportion of students achieving higher exam grades in England and Wales has been increasing since the late 1980s. At the same time, Britain has slid down the PISA league table (Programme for International Students Assessment). PISA measures the performance of 15 year olds in Reading, Maths and Science Literacy every three years and about 65 countries all over the world are included.

Requirement of the EBacc – to achieve the EBacc, a student must achieve a minimum of grade C at GCSE level (or grade 5 in the new system from 2017) in the following subjects:

  1. English
  2. Maths
  3. Sciences
  4. History or Geography (either)
  5. One language

The EBacc is not a separate qualification from GCSEs but is for a student to achieve high GCSE grades in the above subject areas. Below is a more detailed explanation of some of the EBacc subjects.

Requirement of the EBacc for English

  • The student must take both English Literature and English Language at GCSE level, and achieve a grade A* to C (grade 9 to 4 in the new system from 2017) in at least one of the two subje

Requirement of the EBacc for Language

  • Achieve a grade A* to C (grade 9 to 4 in the new system from 2017) in one of the following subjects: French, German, Latin, Greek, Portuguese, Spanish, Mandarin or Japanese, which are usually highly regarded; however, it is widely believed that other languages are acceptable such as Arabic, Hebrew, Italian, Turkish or Urdu, but there is perceived snobbery against most languages except the first eight subjects I listed above.

Requirement of the EBacc for Science

  • Obtain a grade A* to C (grade 9 to 4 in the new system from 2017) in both Core or Additional Science. For those who are taking separate/triple science, they must achieve the relevant pass grade in at least two of the subjects from Biology, Chemistry or Physic

Are all 15 year olds entered for the EBacc?

  • No – some schools feel that they want to concentrate on the very basics and not worry too much about the EBacc, and would rather ensure that their pupils score the minimum required grade in Maths and English. A lower threshold than EBaac exists and that is for a student to achieve five grades A* to C at GCSE, including English and Maths. This is what many schools focus more on as this lower threshold is what the government mainly uses to judge the performance of The EBacc is a higher requirement and the government at present has not been using that to evaluate the performance of schools as much.

I have provided details of what the EBacc is and the requirements of it in this article. In my next article – which is the concluding part of this series – I will be revealing statistics with a little bit of history of students’ performance since the EBacc was introduced. I will explain the new rules and will also be going into more detail about the reasons why teachers think a smaller proportion of pupils aged 16 will qualify for the EBacc as a result of the barrier for EBacc success being raised by the government.



                           New GCSE Grades 9 to 1 – from 2017
New grading structure Old grading structure
9 A*
7 A
6 BC

Below are links to related articles you may found helpful


Related articles :

EBaac: https://excelinkeysubjects.com/23what-is-the-ebacc/

Grade 9 to 1: https://excelinkeysubjects.com/will-new-gcse-grades-9-1-lead-new-elitism/





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