Ebacc, Physical Intelligence and Children’s Rights

The government’s determination to press ahead with the creation of something it calls the English Baccalaureate is continuing to meet with opposition.

Opponents of the Ebacc say that it’s essentially an attempt to differentiate between what the government sees as academically ‘valid’ subjects such as maths and science and other subjects which it sees as less demanding, less challenging, less important and easier to pass with high grades.

EbaccWe’ve written quite a lot already this week on the subject of physical intelligence, its contribution to spiritual wellbeing, and on the sporting success of British athletes and sports people.

This week there’s been a challenge to the whole notion of the Ebacc from bodies which represent the entire field of fitness, sports and athletics – both from the point of view of participants and also from that of the professionals who work in this area.

The Guardian’s report on this issue is by the paper’s chief sports correspondent, Owen Gibson, who writes,

Ebacc plans imperil Olympic legacy, say sports chiefs

Sports governing bodies that helped Team GB’s athletes to unprecedented success at the London Games have warned that government plans to revamp secondary education risk marginalising school sport, damaging future medal prospects and the hoped-for Olympic legacy.

The umbrella group for all governing bodies in the UK including the Football Association, British Cycling and the UK Athletics Association has said the new English baccalaureate would downgrade sport in schools and compound a “worrying” decline in the number of teenagers studying PE at secondary school.

“Over the last four years, the number of pupils taking PE at GCSE level has dropped by a third. To ensure we do not marginalise sport and creative subjects, we believe they must be included as a sixth pillar of the new Ebacc qualification, in addition to the five core subject areas proposed by the government,” said Sport and Recreation Alliance chairman, Andy Reed.

“By limiting the Ebacc to five core academic subject areas, there is a real danger that PE will be sidelined by head teachers as they focus on achieving success in the league tables. The variety of career pathways open to young people will be restricted, and the development of sporting talent in the UK could be undermined.”

Concerned arts grandees recently called for creative subjects to be given the same status as the five “core” subjects included in the Ebacc and Reed fears sport could be similarly marginalised. “The failure to place PE alongside subjects like languages and humanities will compound the worrying decline in the number of teenagers studying PE at Key Stage 4 and beyond,” he said.

The fears over the Ebacc are part of a wider debate about the future of school sport. Education secretary Michael Gove dismantled a national network of school sport partnerships when he axed £162m in ringfenced funding in 2010.

 Jon Glenn, head of youth and community at the Amateur Swimming Association, said: “The government needs to start showing by its actions that it values physical activity.

“School swimming is one of the activities that will continue to be sidelined if PE isn’t given greater priority. At least 200,000 pupils are leaving primary school not being able to swim, and only a small percentage of these children will then get an opportunity to try again at secondary.

“Not being able to swim can narrow people’s options to take part in all types of sport and physical activity, like canoeing and sailing, and it has a has a significant impact on their safety.”



Mr Glenn should perhaps wise up to the fact that this government doesn’t give a toss about whether schools promote swimming, canoeing, rowing and sailing. As far as the government is concerned, parents can be responsible for developing children’s interest in these and other sports, and if this means that our elite athletes in future come from schools that happen to have their own boating and rowing lakes, for example, and from families than can afford the membership of (and live in the vicinity of) rowing and sailing clubs, then so be it. It’s worked really well for tennis, obviously.

3Di’s position is that it’s outrageous that those young people who have no interest in or aptitude for science and mathematics should be seen as academically and intellectually inferior to those who excel in those subjects. It’s unacceptably dictatorial for any secretary of state to try to push for the higher status of maths and science to the detriment of other areas of study and expertise. Of course we should respect those of us who do well in these no doubt intellectually demanding subjects, but we should be equally repectful of those who choose to study subjects that require different sorts of expertise and different sorts of creative abilities.

What this really comes down to is a way to measure the ‘performance’ of schools in order to judge some schools better than others in terms of producing mathematically and scientifically minded students for careers in science and technology – on the assumption that the country needs more of these people in order to ‘compete’ internationally in what are seen as the key ‘markets’ in the 21st century.

What this and every country really needs is a population of creative, innovative individuals who are skilled in many different areas, with high levels of all six intelligences and the capacity to communicate and work together effectively. The government addresses none of these issues.

In order to achieve all of these goals we suggest the government should research better ways to teach science and maths in order to make these subjects more interesting and more compelling for more young people – who would then go on to study them at a higher level through sheer motivational interest, and not because they are compelled to in order to achieve their wretched Ebacc. We also need future generations who are committed to their own lifelong learning, who enjoy learning, and who have learned how to learn and pursue their own learning agendas.

Children have rights, and no child should be coerced into spending valuable learning time in classes where they bored, unmotivated and unengaged – just because a government or an individual politician says they should. No child should be denied the right to study a very wide range of subjects due to their school eliminating certain subjects from the curriculum in order to boost the school’s position in Ebacc league tables. This is more than a nonsense – it’s positively immoral and unethical, as well as a denial of children’s human rights.

About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/ or see our website at www.3diassociates.com.
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