Educational authorities argue that addressing funding issues and teacher shortages should take precedence over the implementation of a “British baccalaureate.”
Rishi Sunak’s proposal to revamp A-levels has been criticized by Labour as an impractical ploy, and school leaders have expressed skepticism, emphasizing that issues related to funding and teacher shortages demand more immediate attention.
Numerous news reports suggest that the Prime Minister is considering changes to the post-GCSE curriculum in England, including mandatory math and English courses as part of a broader qualification known as the “British baccalaureate.” However, despite being discussed several times over the past year, there is a shortage of details to substantiate whether this might eventually become a policy outlined in the Conservative Party’s election manifesto.
Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party, has accused Sunak of causing uncertainty, stating, “I believe that many parents, upon hearing this, will express concerns. Currently, our secondary schools are facing a shortage of mathematics teachers, and many schools are either closed or not operating effectively due to concerns about deteriorating infrastructure.”
Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, criticized the proposal, stating, “This is merely the latest impractical ploy from a weak prime minister and an ailing Conservative government that lacks a substantial plan for enhancing educational standards for young individuals.”
As of now, discussions about the potential contents of a sixth-form baccalaureate seem to be limited to Downing Street, with minimal or no involvement from the Department for Education or Gillian Keegan, the education secretary for England.
James Kewin, the deputy chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, argued that the government’s primary concerns should be increasing investment and addressing teacher recruitment issues rather than making drastic changes to the curriculum.
“Elaborate plans lacking specifics are difficult to take seriously, especially when they seem to be driven more by electoral motives than educational ones and are repeatedly announced,” Kewin remarked.
Critics contend that the introduction of additional mathematics and English classes could clash with the government’s recently introduced T-level qualification, a two-year vocational program equivalent to three A-levels that features an extensive curriculum and extended work placements.
Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, expressed doubts about the feasibility of a baccalaureate in conjunction with other qualifications, given the substantial investment made by the government in developing T-levels. He stated that the concept of a “British baccalaureate” seemed more like a vague slogan, with the addition of mandatory math until the age of 18.
Barton raised questions about whether the British baccalaureate would replace A-levels, T-levels, BTecs, and existing functional skills qualifications, incorporate them, or be introduced alongside them.
Additionally, there is a potential issue with private schools opting to disregard the baccalaureate and continuing to offer traditional A-levels, as they have done with the government’s revamped GCSE courses.
Harry Quilter-Pinner, the director of engagement and research at the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank, recommended addressing pressing issues such as deteriorating schools, teacher recruitment and retention challenges, and disparities in educational standards before considering a British baccalaureate