New figures reveal that of the students who begin the English Baccalaureate qualification, 15.1 percent fail to achieve it, according to new figures released by the Department for Education.

ArtsProfessional reports that this is a significant jump in the fail rate, which was 6.2 percent failing to pass, when the Ebacc was launched in 2011.

The EBacc involves studying specified GCSE subjects, none of which are arts subjects. The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) analysis shows that pupils with lower prior attainment to starting the Ebacc, are being increasingly disadvantaged by studying EBacc subjects. In 2015 just over 5% of lower attaining pupils entered the EBacc, and 12.7% of these pupils achieved it. This year 8.3% per cent sat the exams, but the proportion achieving it fell to 10.8%.

Lucy Ellis, commenting for the NFER, raised concerns about the implications of the figures. She said:

“This trend is concerning as pupils who currently enter EBacc subjects are likely to be the medium to higher attaining pupils whom schools believe are capable of achieving the EBacc. As a greater number of lower attaining pupils start entering EBacc subjects, all other things being equal, this gap between entries and achievement might be expected to continue to widen.”

Such pupils might be better served by being able to decide to study alternative qualifications that better suit their aims and interests… as a greater number of lower attaining pupils are studying these [EBacc] subjects, it surely cannot be a good experience for these pupils or a good outcome for the EBacc qualification itself.”

Ellis concluded that the government is not near reaching its goal of making the Ebacc the gold standard qualification for students, saying:

“The way forward needs to be carefully considered to ensure an increase in not just entry rates but, more importantly, achievement for all pupils.”

Schools Minister Nick Gibb hit back at critics recently who believe that the EBacc is inappropriate for some pupils, by citing a research report by The Sutton Trust to claim that the “EBacc debate is being won”. Notably, he did not acknowledge the report’s conclusion that “setting the EBacc as the ‘gold standard’ secondary school curriculum risks deprioritising the educational experiences of those students for whom it isn’t appropriate” and its recommendation that the Government should “reconsider its intention that 90% of pupils should be entered for EBacc subjects”.