Confused About the EBacc: English Baccalaureate? We're Here to Help


  1. What is the EBacc (English Baccalaureate)?
  2. What is the difference between the English Baccalaureate and GCSE?
  3. Why is there so much emphasis put on EBacc subjects?
  4. What is the point of the EBacc?
  5. Does the EBacc matter?
  6. What does this mean for non-EBacc subjects?
  7. How do you achieve the English Baccalaureate?


If you have a child in secondary school, you may have heard of the EBacc qualification – but what exactly is it? Well, the English Baccalaureate is in fact not a qualification at all. The EBacc is a school performance measure used to give a score to students based on how they perform in exams for a number of school subjects. If you’re a little confused, not to worry – we’ll help you understand what the Ebacc is, and how it affects your child in their educational journey!school-exam


What is the EBacc (English Baccalaureate)?


If you’ve ever found yourself wondering, “what is the EBacc?”, you’re not the only parent that has found this confusing. The government introduced the English Baccalaureate in 2010 as a performance indicator. It’s a way to measure the success of a school and groups of students. 

The English Baccalaureate is an accountability measure based on a set of specific GCSE examinations. 

These include: 

  • English Language and Literature
  • Maths
  • The Sciences (Biology, Chemistry and Physics)
  • Geography or History
  • A language (modern or ancient)

Studies have shown that students who study EBacc subjects are more likely to have success in higher education. The EBacc represents a set of GCSE subjects that will ensure young people have plenty of options for their further education and future career. 


What is the difference between the English Baccalaureate and GCSE?


The English Baccalaureate is a set of GCSE examinations all tallied up together to give a score. The EBacc can be a good indicator of a student's future in higher education if they’re able to do well in these subjects. 

The English Baccalaureate is being encouraged across the board. In fact, the government is aiming for 90% of UK students to be taking English Baccalaureate GCSE subjects by 2025.

It’s up to each student to decide whether they’d like to study the EBacc subjects, which are designed to offer pupils a standard knowledge base that will allow them to go in a range of different directions with their future studies and careers, or whether they’d like to choose more creative subjects. 

What does this all mean for the students deciding between whether to study the EBacc subjects or to go for more creative subjects? What does it mean for parents trying to support their children in making this decision? We would recommend talking this over with your teen to determine what direction they’d like to take. 

The English Baccalaureate student score is not published, so it doesn’t affect individual students’ achievements. The results are for the government and the Department for Education to know what’s happening across the board.


Why is there so much emphasis put on EBacc subjects?


The English Baccalaureate is a quantifiable measure, meaning it’s useful for determining attainment at secondary school. The average score is calculated for various groups of students. This way, it’s easy to see if a particular group of students performs higher or lower than other student cohorts. ⚖️

The English Baccalaureate Equality Analysis the Department of Education published in 2017 found that:

"Boys are less likely to take and achieve the EBacc subjects than girls. White pupils have lower entry rates than some other ethnic groups. In 2016, 38% of white pupils entered the EBacc, compared with 40% of all pupils."

Planning for the progression of groups of students is a valuable tool in a school and teachers' arsenal. Once a below-average group has been identified, measures can be put in place to support this group. Schools are then able to quantify the progression of their students beyond a score on a piece of paper, and they’ll be able to determine whether a student or group of students have progressed from their starting point. This is how the schools’ performance rates are measured. 📋


What is the point of the Ebacc?


The English Baccalaureate is a focused approach that centres on core subjects. If an individual student shows particular interest or a high ability in the more creative subjects, then it may not be the best choice for them to focus on the EBacc alone. If your child is excelling in subjects like Art, Drama or P.E, it’s probably a good idea to include a range of GCSE subjects into their complete set of examinations.

Teachers across the UK generally encourage their students to pick the subjects that they feel connected to – the lessons that keep them focused and wanting to know more. As you help your child decide what course to take, it’s wise to talk this over thoroughly with them. 

For teenagers, choosing GCSEs based on what they’re good at or enjoy often works well – but what about the kids who aren’t sure of what path to take? If your teen is doing pretty well across all subjects, then the English Baccalaureate Examinations may be the best focus for them because it will provide a good educational foundation. If your child is struggling with the structure of school, finding homework challenging, and lessons boring, focusing just on the EBacc may be the best option since it will eliminate the distraction of other subjects. 📜


Does the EBacc matter?


For teens, the EBacc does matter. However, as long as your teen achieves what they need to at GCSE in order to move on to their next step of education, the subjects themselves aren’t always as important.The examinations are to build a foundation and show that teens can succeed in the next step of their education. GCSEs lead them to their further education, and further education leads to higher education and so on. 

Though the EBacc is a great option for many young people, it’s far from the only option and your teenager should make the decision for themselves about what path they’d like to take. For some, starting a college course or A-levels might be the better option, and there are other opportunities for entrepreneurial youngsters. 

If there’s any particular course your child would be interested in, it would make sense to check the entry requirements for that course. If their dream is a top ten university to study science, then a high score in the GCSE English Baccalaureate subjects is probably their best bet. However, if your child is interested in a local college course in Performing Arts, then a GCSE in Drama would be a good idea. 🎭


What does this mean for non-EBacc subjects?


The emphasis of the EBacc is that achieving it means students are more likely to go on to further and higher education. It’s a broad statement that ignores other factors, in the same way that achieving a BTEC qualification isn’t seen as equally academically challenging as an equivalent A-level grade qualification. More practical courses are often assessed using different qualifications, leading to an unfair view of those achievements.

To 'achieve' an EBacc, students need to achieve a specific grade in the EBacc subjects. This is calculated using a few factors – progression and the scores of the 5 GCSE subjects, combined to give each student their score. ✔️

The progression baseline is dictated to a school when the student arrives from their primary school. For example, if a student is deemed below average upon entry to secondary school and then achieves an 'eight grade' in all GCSE subjects, this means they have progressed beyond what was expected of them. For a school, this will give them the highest score possible. The school would also achieve a high EBacc score if high achieving students continued to progress well. 

The English Baccalaureate is a way to measure a school as well as students’ progress, and the pupils’ scores are never published.

The UK government’s ambition is for 90% of students to sit the English Baccalaureate subjects by 2025. However, this would entail less focus on other subjects that are also important and worthwhile, such as more creative subjects that could be studied at GCSE. For many students, their interests and talents lie in more creative fields, and those young people should be able to pursue fields like Music, Technology, Dance and Drama. If all students are encouraged to focus on the EBacc, the student body as a whole may receive a smaller spectrum of education and fewer opportunities to pursue the fields they’re most interested in. We would recommend that you talk this over with your teen and help them determine what direction they might like to take based on their interests, skills and future aspirations. 📚


How do you achieve the English Baccalaureate?


Quite simply, no individual person achieves the EBacc – schools do. The English Baccalaureate is a way to encourage students to focus on the main GCSE subjects that will form a solid basis for many students to build their further education on. These are subjects that can be easily quantified for the scoreboards, and the English Baccalaureate judges different schools on how well they’re performing. 🕮

As a parent, you may feel worried or confused as you try to figure out what’s best for your child's education. In general, following your teen’s interests and inclinations is likely the best idea. If you have an academically talented high achiever on your hands, then helping them achieve an eight or a nine in their GCSEs would be very beneficial for their future academic success – and who knows, the school's English Baccalaureate score might improve based on your child's efforts as well! 🎓

If your teen could use a little extra help with their studies, why not try out online tutoring with GoStudent? You can schedule a free trial lesson so you and your child can see what it’s all about! 🚀


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