An Eco-Ed Approach to E-bacc Nathalie Bethesda

Wednesday 8 August 2018

Ecological education suggests an organic relationship between subjects and disciplines as well as skills and competencies. It offers a dynamic response to what many regard as the imposition of an academic curriculum that is irrelevant and exclusive.

One argument goes that the creative arts are being squeezed out of many young people’s offer because of the compulsion for schools to ensure that every student demonstrates functional literacy and numeracy in the form of English and Maths GCSE 4-9, as well as some breadth if not depth of the humanities and sciences.  This seems for many to be a parched landscape, devoid of colour and of the lifeblood of learning.

Schools serving deprived communities are particularly challenged by Progress 8[i]accountability measure which require E-bacc uptake. It is an interesting inconsistency that such schools situated in deindustrialised heartlands find themselves in, given that they consider their remit to deliver employable citizens. Similarly those schools serving blighted rural and coastal areas, where farming is largely mechanized and seasonal or where fishing fleets are fatally depleted. 

Inconsistency resides in the failure to address the economies that our young people are subject to; information, care, service and gig – if indeed we want to continue to consider our education system as the conveyor belt of human resource.  Whether or not we do, our response to these changes is arbitrary.  

It is true that the arts are being squeezed out of mainstream schools at the great expense of the health and well-being of children and young people and of the social fabric. There has been a failure of education leadership that has capitulated to a standards agenda that adheres to the market philosophy and a banking model of education. But the creative arts industry that reiterates that market philosophy and banking model are no less inconsistent. What the creatives seem to regret is that qualification in subject areas are not being pursued, ignoring the fact that their attainment has little purchase in a squeezed and networked market-place.   

How much better if we applied our leadership and creativity to thinking about how we can demonstrate ability of the 21st century skills that are demanded from the new economies?

  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Creativity and imagination
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving

Let us also address the need for cultural capital that is paramount in a global, information economy, the dearth of which is as damaging to the individual as it is to the social fabric. . There is a more subtle truth to the opposing war of words expressed in the Ken Robinson creativity camp and the Gove/Gradgrind rote learning stereotype which suggests the need for knowledge, which is garnered by literacy and which is the foundation of creativity.

Instead of being the pendulum, swinging from one side of the clock case to the other, there are alternative ways to deliver all of the above; to accommodate academic curricula within an immersive and artistic environment; to offer the skills and competencies that are required for the 21st century as well as the cultural capital that sustains on a psycho-social level.  These persistent arguments inadvertently do little more than delay social justice. 

Our demands should be for better systems all round; see

In the meantime, we can begin to break down the barriers for ourselves, given courage and commitment. The indicative curriculum above is an amalgam of four subjects, compiled from AQA specifications. It is designed to take up at least 2 hours of integrative study everyday. It requires a single teacher who has the motivation to deliver cross-curricular engaging the multiple intelligences we should seek to inspire. It brings breadth and depth to the subjects that alienate in atomised timetabling because of the subjects’ disconnect from each other and from who we have been, who we are and who we might be. It potentially enables our young people to employ their heads, their hearts and their hands in their learning and to acquire cultural capital as well as personal and social cohesion. 

Assessment can be equally multi-faceted, using a combination of rich tasks[ii] within a variety of individual and group text or performance outcomes, using a variety of media. They are personal collections of learning over the theme. These can be interspersed with formal essays, that become part of the portfolio of work and that prepares for summative examinations, if that is the route that is chosen. Or Extended Project Qualification[iii] could be negotiated? This is a dialogic adventure that fully attuned to the activation of independent thinking and self-motivation needed for the 21st century.

EBacc is not an academic exercise to me. It is a human entitlement. This indicative curriculum is only one combination of how it might be approached but it is carefully chosen in order to support our young people to have some insight into the socio-geo-political and philosophical dynamics that their world presents them with every day; that they might be able to form some independent understanding of the historical inconsistencies that we navigate in modernity, the baggage humanity has packed and carries. I want that our young people to be in dialogue with history, religion and Literature, not be prey to bigotry. 

This will be achieved if learning is delivered in a holistic, artistic environment. 

Nathalie Bethesda MA Education Philosophy