Is the English Baccalaureate a passport to future success?

In England accountability measures have often been used to steer school behaviour in pursuit of policy goals. In 2010, the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) was introduced to increase uptake of traditional academic subjects at GCSE. These subjects, it was argued, would enhance students’ future prospects, in part because they are favoured at A-level by high-ranking universities. However, such prospects are only likely to be accessible for students who achieve at least a grade C in these subjects since it is good grades that act as the primary gatekeepers for entry into higher education and employment. Hence, this paper seeks to problematise this claim using multilevel regression models to investigate the relationship between EBacc uptake and attainment. The findings are used to frame a discussion about the merits of encouraging more students to take the EBacc given the growing tension between the need to achieve good grades and the government-held view that all students should be studying this academic core.

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