What is the EBacc?


You might have heard of the EBacc (English Baccalaureate) but are unsure of which subjects are included and how it fits into school performance tables. 

The EBacc is not a qualification in its own right but rather a combination of GCSE subjects. The EBacc was introduced by the Coalition Government in 2010 to encourage students to study a broad range of core subjects to help them go on to study higher education courses. It has seen numerous reforms since 2010. 

The government’s ambition is to see 75% of pupils studying the EBacc subject combination at GCSE by 2022, and 90% by 2025.

In this article, we refer to information from the Department for Education (DfE), refer to research from the UCL Institute of Education and the Sutton Trust and link to additional resources.

What is the EBacc?

The DfE explains that the EBacc is a set of subjects at GCSE that keeps young people’s options open for further study and future careers. The EBacc is:

  • English language and literature
  • Maths
  • The sciences
  • Geography or history
  • A language


To count towards the English part of the EBacc, pupils need to take both English literature and English language GCSE exams.


Pupils need to take one of the following options:

  • GCSE combined science – pupils take two GCSEs that cover the three main sciences, biology, chemistry and physics
  • Three single sciences at GCSE – pupils choose three subjects from biology, chemistry, physics and computer science


Taking any ancient or modern foreign language GCSE counts towards the languages part of the EBacc.

What are the EBacc measures?

Secondary schools are measured on the number of pupils that take GCSEs in these core subjects. Schools are also measured on how well their pupils do in these subjects.

Pupils’ attainment is calculated as an average point score, meaning that all results at all grades count towards the EBacc.

To calculate a school’s EBacc average point score the DfE:

  • Add together the EBacc average point score for all pupils at the end of KS4
  • Divide by the number of pupils in the group

To calculate a pupil’s average point score the DfE takes an average of the points scored in the 5 EBacc subject areas. The EBacc is a performance measure for schools, not a qualification for pupils.

Pupils’ individual average point scores are not published.

To count towards the measure, qualifications must be included in the DfE’s approved list of the qualifications.

What has been the impact of the EBacc?

A study by the UCL Institute of Education shows that studying subjects included in the EBacc provides students with greater opportunities in further education and increases the likelihood that a pupil will stay on in full-time education. Sutton Trust research reveals that studying the EBacc can help improve a young person’s performance in English and maths.

There have also been calls for the measure to be scrapped. Schools Week reported that the government faced renewed calls to review its controversial EBacc accountability measure after three separate claims by ministers about the success of the reforms were debunked. There is also the Bacc for the Future campaign with the aim of saving creative subjects across the curriculum.

If you are an Edapt subscriber and you are facing allegations on the subject of exams you can contact us for more information. We have also written an article on the topic of exam maladministration.

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