2022 Spring Term 2

The know zone

  • Sounding out phonics
    Tiffnie Harris delves into the highly-debated issue on the use of phonics in teaching early reading. More
  • Is the Bacc back?
    As the government carries out an inquiry into the post-16 education landscape, Kevin Gilmartin examines whether there really is an appetite for a 16-19 baccalaureate. More
  • Resource management
    Hayley Dunn takes a closer look at the DfE's new tools for resource management and procurement More
  • Lifelong ambition
    Anne Murdoch explores what the Skills Bill means for colleges, employers and learners. More
  • Post-16 Bacc
    Should the government introduce a post-16 baccalaureate that allows students to take a variety of subjects, including both academic and vocational options? Here, ASCL members have their say... More
  • Going the distance
    Headteacher Russell Clarke says ASCL Council provides an excellent platform for sharing ideas and influencing policy. Here, he shares his passion for Council, carving and fell running. More
  • Never forget?
    If the human brain is wired for learning, it also appears programmed to forget. We all know how the acquisition of knowledge can enrich a life but forgetfulness can have value too, says Chris Pyle. More
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Should the government introduce a post-16 baccalaureate that allows students to take a variety of subjects, including both academic and vocational options? Here, ASCL members have their say...

Post-16 Bacc

Yes, but everyone must be on board 

More breadth – tick, core maths – tick, introduction to civic education – tick, accredited voluntary work – tick, philosophy for learning – tick, further study of languages – tick, work-related learning – tick. We’ve been decrying the narrowness of the three A level post-16 curriculum for many years. It would, of course, be a great idea to broaden post-16 education. 

Curriculum 2000 briefly encouraged breadth with many students taking four or even five AS subjects. However, the lesson from that and the 14–19 reforms that just about came, but almost as quickly went in the decade that followed, is that unless they are made a requirement for progression to university and employment then they will be ignored. And therein lies the rub because our educational culture is unlikely to accept the rigid criteria that a post-16 baccalaureate would bring. Unless a post-16 baccalaureate becomes a requirement for entry to higher education or employment it will lack value and students and institutions will ignore it or pay lip service to it. 

Andy Stone 
Headteacher, Holy Family Catholic School, Walthamstow, London 

Yes, implement the Tomlinson Report 

Being long in the tooth, I remember the Tomlinson Report very well. And how bitterly disappointed I was when its universally acclaimed conclusions and proposals were pulled. To this day, I don’t remember ever being given the reasons why. 

Is it too much to suggest that government not waste yet more public money on yet another review, and instead go back to that report and implement what it suggested?

Lee Hunter 
Headteacher, Sir Roger Manwood’s School, Kent 

Yes, it offers valuable breadth of learning 

This is my 24th year in IB schools and I’m proud to lead one of the few academies to offer both IB diploma and careers-related programmes in the sixth form. I’ve also worked in schools that precede sixth form with GCSEs, the IB’s own Middle Years Programme, American curriculum and Ontario curriculum. 

All models have pros and cons, of course, but the benefits to young people of a cohesive programmatic approach to learning are clear to me, when compared to the ‘silos’ of GCSEs and A levels. 

The mandatory breadth of study is increasingly valuable to students: not only do they gain an awareness of knowledge and disciplinary skills across a range of academic areas – surely good for any society? – but they also of course keep their options open in terms of career or tertiary education pursuits. Many years ago, I did A levels and was forced to make decisions at 15 years of age that sent me down a narrow pathway without really having the awareness or maturity to make those decisions well. Thirty years later, my daughter completed the IB Diploma and not only was she much better prepared for independent life than I was, she also retained more options for – in her case – university, which allowed her to defer a significant narrowing of her pathway until the second year of university. 

Of course, the advantages I see in a diploma/baccalaureate approach assume that we want our education system to benefit young people and society broadly, rather than acting as a ranking process, which is obviously one of its main functions now and over the past century. Hence, the importance of a tangential topic: assessment in such a diploma/baccalaureate. 

Moving in that programmatic direction could also provide an opportunity to move away from the antiquated assessment and grading practices that have been spot lit during the past two years. 

Dr Paul Wood 
Principal and CEO, Westminster Academy, London 

Yes, it’s a great idea 

Great idea. The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) is ready to go and produces students who are far superior to their A level counterparts. Happy to help any school interested in adopting it. 

David Woods
Principal, Hockerill Anglo-European College, Bishop’s Stortford