What is the EBacc or English Baccalaureate?

The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) is not a qualification as such, but is a way of measuring if schools are encouraging pupils to choose a broad and varied range of subjects at GCSE, and to focus them on getting pupils to take academic subjects. To record an EBacc for the school, the student has to pass English, Maths, Sciences, Geography or History and a language.

The government was keen to promote languages, Geography and History in particular, as it was felt that these traditional academic subjects were being replaced by more vocational courses.

Has the EBacc increased GCSE language entries?

Since the EBacc was introduced in the summer of 2010, the proportion of students picking a GCSE in languages has increased, halting a steady downward trend over the previous 9 years.

The change was made in 2010, so allowing 2-3 years for the new idea to filter down to students choosing their options, you’d expect to see an increase in students taking languages from 2013 – and exactly as predicted the proportion taking a language has risen.

Students taking a GCSE foreign language from 2002 to 2014

British Council Language Trends 2015

British Council Language Trends Survey 2015

A-levels in languages since 2012

The increased number of GCSE entries might be expected to lead to more students taking A levels in language. Since the increase in GCSE entries was in 2013 and 2014, we would expect to see the impact in A Level entries starting from 2015, so we’ll report back when that data is published.

Till then, it looks as though the EBacc has had some effect in getting schools to encourage students to stick with at least 1 language at GCSE, at least temporarily halting the alarming decline in languages in schools for now.