SCHOOLS in two Yorkshire cities are a part of a “roundtable” group leading the way with a plan to create a national baccalaureate qualification for pupils between the ages of 14 to19.
Labour has announced education reforms which would see all pupils studying English and maths to the age of 18 along with a personal skills programme and an extended project.
Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt said that this new national baccalaureate would recognise pupils studying both academic and technical qualifications.
These plans are based on work already being done by a group of heads known as the Headteachers’ Roundtable who were originally brought together because they were all prominent users of the social media site Twitter within the education sector.
The Headteachers’ Roundtable Baccalaureate, which is being launched in schools later this year, will provide a framework for existing qualifications while also expecting students to undertake a personal development programme and do their own extended research project.
The roundtable group, which includes Ros McMullen, the principal of David Young Community Academy, in Leeds, and John Tomsett, the head at Huntington School, in York, held an initial roundtable discussion about the state of education in 2012 and have now become a leading think-tank playing a role in shaping education policy.
One of the heads involved, Tom Sherrington had developed initial plans for a national baccalaureate which are now being rolled out across Headteachers’ Roundtable schools including David Young Community Academy and Huntington School in York.
Mr Sherrington, who is head at King Edward VI Grammar School in Chelmsford, was then invited to part of a policy review group producing reports for the Labour Party. He told the Yorkshire Post the plan announced by Mr Hunt at the weekend had been based on the early work of the Headteachers’ Roundtable group.
The Headteachers’ Roundtable Baccalaureate is being offered at intermediate level for GCSE pupils and advanced level for sixth formers. Pupils will be able earn it through GCSEs, and academic routes such as A-levels or the International Baccalaureate as well as technical qualifications such as B-tecs. However to get the baccalaureate pupils will also have to do a personal development programme and carry out an extended project.
Mr Sherrington said: “Labour’s plan is based on the framework we have suggested but we had not said that we expected all pupils to sit English and maths to the age of 18 – that is something they have come up with. It is something that we wanted to do though so we may need to revisit it.”
Mr Tomsett said that the biggest challenge for schools would be to get pupils to carry out an extended research project alongside three A-levels.
He said: “It is a challenge but it is do-able and it is important because it helps pupils to carry out their own academic research and better prepares them for university. It is exciting that the Headteachers’ Roundtable group have only been going for 18 months but we are already playing a role in shaping national policy.”
At David Young Commnity Academy, sixth formers are already used to doing a broad programme of study through the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma, which requires student to do range of subjects along with an independent research project and some voluntary community service work.
The school also offers the IB careers certificate for more vocationally minded sixth formers.
The school’s principal Ms McMullen and assistant principal Mark Robinson said that both qualifications could be used to help earn the new national baccalaureate which will be run from the Seacroft school from the start of next term.
Schools outside the roundtable group will also be running the new Headteachers’ Roundtable Baccalaureate including Goole High School.