What is the English Baccalaureate? (Or EBacc, for short)

The “English Baccalaureate” is (currently) a set of subjects that, if taken at GCSE, add up to you getting the ‘EBacc’.  So far the EBacc exists as an idea rather than as a certificate, but plans are afoot to ensure that any student who achieves a C grade or above in all of the required subjects also gets an EBacc certificate to prove their status.

Which subjects count?

In total you must achieve a C grade or above in the following five GCSEs or iGCSEs

  • English or English Language
  • Maths
  • Science (you need two grades, so either: core plus additional, double award, or two of the single sciences)
  • A Modern or Ancient Language
  • History or Geography

If you get an AS-level in one of these subjects instead of a GCSE, this can be substituted in and act as a GCSE for the purpose of achieving the EBacc.  Some alternative certificates are occasionally allowed; further guidance is available on the DfE Website.

What is the benefit of the EBacc?

The main proclaimed benefit is that it keeps the widest number of options open.  To study these subjects at A-Level you would usually be expected to have taken them at GCSE, and they are the A-Levels that arguably allow you to study the widest number of subjects at university (though this is debatable). Currently no universities require the EBacc for entry to their courses and though many say they have no plans to change this, in education one can never be too certain that the goal posts won’t move quickly.

EBacc vs. IB Middle Years

A number of schools are questioning the value of the English Baccalaureate over the International Baccaleaureate – a qualification with a much broader spectrum of subjects and which is highly regarded across the world. The IB is considered rigorous but also adept at providing a wider skills base as students are involved in health and social education, community projects and learn about technology.  These are notably absent from the English Baccalaureate, although students do still have other GCSE options open to them if they wish to supplement the core.

Offering a more ‘exotic’ qualification has sometimes been difficult for schools as they struggle to find trained teachers, and textbooks/resources can be more expensive however I have heard almost entirely positive things from the parents of students who have studied for the IB.  Students tend to find both the IBacc and the EBacc difficult, so their ‘like’ of the subject is often dependent on how much they appreciate having their brain challenged!

What about EBCs?

Recently the government announced that subjects in the English Baccalaureate are going to be made ‘more rigorous’. This involves getting rid of modular exams and coursework, and adding more content. To reflect the fact that the subjects in the EBacc are more rigorous than GCSEs they will be renamed to ‘EBCs’, that is English Baccalaureate Certificates. However, do not confuse the EBCs with the overall EBacc.  EBCs are single subjects that you will sit in the five EBacc subjects. If you pass them all THEN you will get an EBacc Certificate.

Frankly, it’s currently a little complicated. Hopefully as plans progress they will make the names less confusing.



Categories: EBacc, UK Education Policy

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  1. Reasons for EBacc Subjects (and reasons why I don’t agree) | Laura McInerney
  2. Can I go to university without the EBacc? | Laura McInerney
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