EBacc: Social Mobility and Justice

Education – in the House of Commons on 6th December 2021.

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Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Conservative, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton

If he will make an assessment of the contribution of the introduction of the EBacc to social (a) mobility and (b) justice.

Photo of Nadhim Zahawi Nadhim Zahawi The Secretary of State for Education

I welcome my hon. Friend Mr French to his place, and of course I welcome Bridget Phillipson to hers—a great promotion for her. The work of her predecessor, Kate Green, has been invaluable in what we can do together, especially with covid.

I commend the work of my right hon. Friend Nick Gibb throughout his tenure as Minister for School Standards, during which time the proportion of disadvantaged pupils entered for the EBacc increased from 9% in 2011 to 27% in 2021.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Conservative, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for those words. As he will know, the EBacc combines core academic GCSEs in subjects that advantaged families take it for granted that their children will study—maths, English, at least two sciences, a humanity and a foreign language. Given the importance of those subjects, what measures is he taking to ensure that schools meet the target of 75% of year 11 pupils taking those GCSE exams by 2024, and 90% by 2027?

Photo of Nadhim Zahawi Nadhim Zahawi The Secretary of State for Education

I think my right hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that we have already achieved GCSE entry levels of over 95% in English, maths and science, and over 80% in humanities. On language GCSEs, however, the situation is slightly more challenging. That remains the biggest barrier to achieving the ambition, which is why we remain committed to reforming the subject content of French, German and Spanish GCSEs.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care)

I support a relentless focus on standards in the core academic subjects, but resources also count. Given that Institute for Fiscal Studies analysis shows that the most deprived secondary schools saw a 14% real-terms fall in spending per pupil between 2009-10 and 2019-20, can the Secretary of State say whether that disparity in investment has improved or harmed social mobility and social justice?

Photo of Nadhim Zahawi Nadhim Zahawi The Secretary of State for Education

I am grateful for the hon. Member’s question. I hope that he backs the record investment in education—£86 billion—that the Chancellor provided in the Budget. The Sutton Trust—I hope the hon. Member appreciates its research—suggests that, in 2016, the 300 schools that had increased EBacc take-up were more likely to achieve good GCSEs in mathematics and English, with pupil premium pupils benefiting the most. That is real levelling up from this Government.