Is the Baccalaureate Really the Answer Our Schools Need?

a group of college students studying around a table

You’ll have seen and heard so much commentary over the last week about whether indeed a baccalaureate now has a place in British classrooms.

The question being posed by politicians, and now the media, is whether it’s time we moved toward a reformed approach to A Levels, whereby pupils were made to continue studying key subjects until ‘at least’ the age of 18.

As a former deputy headteacher, an English teacher for a number of years, a parent, and as the CEO of an education-based business, you’ll not be surprised to learn I have opinions on this.

First and foremost, I want to make the point that I feel the days of trying to spout ‘sticking plaster’ type headlines and suggestions, are not the solution.

My colleagues at Lexonik are out in the field of our British schools (and those overseas too) seeing all the time what is really happening within our education system – and they think reform is due…but not like this.

Further education is currently buckling under the huge increase in the number of students needing to resit English and maths. Some blame the covid lag on this, but whatever the cause, it very much exists.

Meanwhile, we see geographical disadvantage ever more apparent. Up here in the North East (Middlesbrough being the home of our HQ) we’re acutely aware of the distinction in results and attainment of pupils in the north vs the south.

Alongside this, we have a very significant issue around staff recruitment and retention.

Is it any wonder staff are feeling too exhausted to continue or too anxious to enter the profession, when they hear a constant narrative about not reaching the required metrics of success in classrooms, and when they hear of challenges in child welfare and economic support.

I fear, from what I’ve seen and read in recent days, that we’re not being asked to look at a sensible considered solution for education 2023 and beyond.

Instead, the dialogue comes across to me like it’s creating an election battleground of education.

We need a long term vision, which sustains and is fit for purpose when we look ahead at tomorrow’s incoming students and their children too.

Naturally, you’ll expect me to jump on Rishi Sunak’s referencing to students continuing to learn English post-16.

My questions?

Well, what English are you referring to Mr Sunak? Are you talking about Skills? Knowledge? Linguistics? Reading? Literature? Phonics?

A large percentage of the current Year 12 population didn’t get over the grade four benchmark in recent times, so how will their post-16 English look compared to someone who did?

How also will that encourage struggling readers to continue with education if they feel pigeon-holed and funnelled into an inappropriate direction for them?

There are many things the education system needs by way of reform right now, but I’m not sure throwing everything at the idea of a single baccalaureate approach is going to cut it – with parents, students, teachers, or future employers.

Ultimately, the package has to be greater, more meaningful, and certainly less aligned with political vote winning (or losing).

Yes, we want more creativity to our education system.

We want and need more innovation.

We need a greater problem-solving focus.

We need a reduced fixation on exams.

We need constant regard for wellbeing and individualism.

We need more vocational and apprenticeship routes. And we need greater collaboration with Ofsted as a helping hand.

What we don’t need, however, is to see education made into a political pawn, and a snappy judgment about a singular initiative which hasn’t been thought through.

*What do you think of the thoughts of our CEO Sarah Ledger? Share your insights with us.