Mr. Benn’s Fancy Dress Curriculum

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Mr Benn EBacc Nick Gibb


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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What government policies are to blame for the recent decline in teachers?

The numbers of teachers of creative subjects are declining, while design and technology is in its death throes.

The Department for Education (DfE) forces teachers to work like Mr Benn, the cartoon character from the 70s – the alternative to Nick Gibb MP.

Every day, he leaves his house and arrives at a fancy-dress shop where he is invited to try on a particular outfit. He then leaves through a magic door at the back of the changing room and enters a world appropriate to his costume, where he has a magical adventure before returning to his normal life.

This is very much like education.

We go on a whistle-stop adventure of character education, “outstanding” hoop-jumping, rapid progress, acting on feedback and use of textbooks. Only to be told a few years later that Ofsted preferences and DfE claims lacked any substantial evidence that any of it actually improved standards.

Mr Benn EBacc Nick Gibb

An EBacc curriculum, specifically a 90 per cent compulsory measure, will choke creativity out of every school across the country.

Image: Joey Bagstock

The Latest Costume?

I wonder how many schools and teachers feel like Mr. Benn wearing the latest DfE costume? Are we jumping hoops and following fads?

The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) policy is a significant and serious distraction from other far more important issues in education and will impact on the life chances of students in every school.

If you think the EBacc curriculum is a good thing, there’s a high chance you’ve never been involved in the teaching or direct management of a creative subject in a school.

This comment from a parent sums up the mood:

“I’ve had this exact argument with my daughters school. She wants to do health and social care, yet [the school] insist she takes French because of the EBacc … we’ve taken it to governors and their response was, “she is too intelligent to not do the Ebacc pathway. This has been to the detriment of her mental health and well-being. (Rebecca)

How many more of our schools are making these sorts of decisions for students, because the DfE imposes a specific curriculum and measure upon schools? When will this nonsense stop? And at what point will the DfE stop promoting academisation and its free school moment – autonomous from a national curriculum – if a further measure on our schools will do the very opposite to this (apparent) freedom?

Continue …

Is the EBacc to blame for the decline in Design Technology?

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EBacc Design Technology article Schools Week


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14 thoughts on “Mr. Benn’s Fancy Dress Curriculum

  1. It seems many schools, teachers, parents or students aren’t aware that DfE guidelines permit a maximum of three technical awards to be taken as part of the EBacc pathway. These would include such subjects as health and social care etc. Why aren’t schools facilitating students opting for technical awards as part of their EBacc? The technical awards are counted under attainment and progress 8 measures.

      1. My approach would be one or more of the following:
        1) it would be very easy for most pre-existing teachers to deliver many of the newly ratified technical awards (see the list – not too far a cry from many GCSE specs for D&T or other subjects already taught)
        2) draft in hourly paid staff from local FE colleges to teach specific awards in school
        3) offer jobs to FE QTLS staff to teach awards in school
        4) partner with local FE colleges who offer 14-19 provision delivering the technical awards and give students a split site experience (transport and pastoral issues would need managing)
        5) refer students to other 14-19 providers in the area who offer a range of technical awards to suit in addition to EBacc subjects

      2. If EBacc becomes the norm and restricts student choices, it will do little to help suggestions if schools have limited funds. All what you have suggested are great ideas, but won’t work if schools are forced to spend their resources on EBacc subjects. I particularly like partnerships ideas and can see the growing need for schools to operate/survive within its own MAT.

      3. Ok, in ref to: “if schools are forced to spend their resources on EBacc subjects”…
        If students are permitted under new rules to take maximum 3 technical awards as part of the EBacc, how are they not considered EBacc subjects? As I interpret it there are academic EBacc subjects and technical award EBacc permitted subjects too. Surely the EBacc is the umbrella under which both sit?

      4. Sorry. Meant to expand. I think an EBacc full stop must include subjects such as technical award subjects. At present it doesn’t so I think it is a bad idea full stop. If it remains in its current form, it will damage the Arts subjects.

      5. Ah, I see where you are coming from now. I actually like the student choice available. I do think students and parents need to be more well informed about all the choice available to them. I did read in some DfE guidance notes somewhere that help with navigation of subject and 14-19 delivery providers would be given to parents and students, as at present it is not satisfactory and too much choice (UTCs, studio schools, FE, free schools, academies, etc) is making it difficult. I like the idea that the choice based system empowers students in the end. I can also see how things will dovetail into current plans to make a starker division between academic and vocational pathways post 16 (15 vocational pathways proposed for 16-19 ed, scrapping proliferation of diluting quals). I can further see how current changes will bring us more into harmony with successful educational models such as Germany, that have remained virtually unchanged since just after WW2, are stable, clear, and fit well in an economically strong country.

  2. I wonder if it’s the DfE trying on a different costume each week? That might explain the inconsistencies. For example Rebecca in your example is denied a subject she wants to do, but technical subjects would be compulsory within the very specific curriculum offer at a UTC.
    The concept of a baccalaureate is to ensure depth and breadth of education. The EBacc does the opposite, restricting breadth. The implication of the quote from Rebecca is that the school thinks ‘bright’ students should do the EBacc and that vocational courses are only for those who aren’t. Is that the real problem? I wonder if anyone said that to James Dyson or Jonathan Ive when they were at school?

    1. Nooooooo. Please see my comments above. Students can do maximum 3 technical awards as part of their EBacc, which still count under attainment / progress 8. Why don’t more people know about this?!!

      1. I have. A few posts ago. Perhaps not clearly enough. But also, my blog doesn’t have many followers or get a lot of hits. You need to do this, Ross.

      2. Yes, they can (I have read your comments), but those qualifications are not part of the EBacc, they are additional to it and count in the performance measures. In practice the EBacc has created a divisive hierarchy of subjects where some are viewed as more important than others. The very real effect of this is that creative, technical and vocational (whatever that means) subjects are suffering as well as humanities which have the misfortune of not being history and geography.

  3. My understanding is not that technical awards are in addition to the EBacc. Although not fitting directly into the academic Ebacc range of options, government guidelines insist that up to three technical awards can count at KS4 towards Progress 8 and Attainment 8 performance measures, where 5 academic GCSEs have been taken from the Ebacc list (DfE, 2015:10). If a school can’t deliver this vast range of options (the list of technical award qualifications is huge ), this is where FE colleges and other 14-19 education providers can fill that gap, offering vocational and often highly creative curriculums for learners, even within the 14-19 provision, unrelated to the Ebacc.
    See for current list of technical award qualifications students can hypothetically choose from.
    Source: DfE (2015). “Technical awards for 14 to 16 year olds 2017 and 2018 performance tables: technical guidance for awarding organisations.” Crown Copyright 2014 – Updated March 2015. Published by the Department for Education. Available online and last accessed on 21/5/2016 at 10am from:

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