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Suffolk: Danish teachers think EBacc is ‘English humour’

13:03 22 September 2012

Geoff Barton from King Edwards VI School in Bury St Edmunds

Geoff Barton from King Edwards VI School in Bury St Edmunds


DANISH teachers visiting a Suffolk school laughed off the exam system that will replace GCSEs as “a strange English joke”, a headteacher has revealed.


Geoff Barton, of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds, said confused Scandinavian colleagues refused to believe that the UK would adopt the “backward-looking” English baccalaureate (EBacc) system, which will involve all pupils sitting gruelling three-hour written exams.

In Denmark, which is famous for its modern education techniques, a reliance on written exams has been abandoned in favour of oral assessment and in some cases full internet access is allowed in exams.

Mr Barton said the visiting teachers’ reaction to Micheal Gove’s EBacc pointed to the philosophical gulf between the UK and its European and Scandinavian neighbours.

He said: “The Danish start from a different point of view.

“They think that after 11 years in education, every pupil should achieve as much as possible, whereas we have an exam system that if more people do well, it must be failing.”

Mr Barton added: “The Danish believe that every child should pass some kind, to make sure that every child does the basics – it is an enlightened approach.”

Although the Danish education system does have a universal exam – half of it written and half of it spoken.

“The oral component is recognition that students learn and express themselves in different ways. This isn’t considered dumbing down,” said Mr Barton.

He added: “When I described the EBacc concept they thought it was the surreal ramblings of an educational nutter – some strange English humour.

“I think they couldn’t believe that it is so backward-looking and that the system is built on a lack of trust of teachers.”

In Denmark, the spoken exam is assessed by the pupil’s own teachers, along with a visiting teacher.

The written exam is also marked by teachers who apply to become examiners.

The East Anglian Daily Times reported this week how Mr Barton has given his backing to proposals for the Suffolk baccalaureate – a qualification aimed at bridging the gap between school and work.



  • I have to agree with the Danish teachers here! I just don't understand where this idea is coming from at all. There are so many people that suffer under too much pressure when it comes to exams, there are plenty of smart people who don't do as well in exams as they'd like. Making GCSE's into this exam based thing doesn't test children on how smart they are, it tests them on how well they do under pressure. My Dad pointed out that it would be a good way to prepare them for university, but not everyone wants to go to university and there are plenty of college courses that don't involve exams at all. This is, in effect, stopping those students get any kind of education as if they fail the new exam they can't get onto college courses, even though they might have excelled in the GCSE system and gone onto something they love. Personally, I do well under pressure, and I'm sure there's plenty of other people who end up with higher grades than they expect, which is great, but no reason to stop people who don't do as well from passing high school. I also can't for the life of me figure out why the government and others in power keep changing things that aren't broken instead of concentration on pulling the country out of the hole we're in. I think they're obsessed with change and want to distract the public from the real problems and messing with children's education to do that is not on.

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    Sunday, September 23, 2012

  • I wonder if the Danes have ever heard the English phrase "get your own house in order". In the OECD International League Tables for education, Denmark are one place above the UK. Admittedly the UK are way too low in 25th place (dropping from 17th where we were in 2009) but that hardly makes Denmark the authority on how to do education.

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    Saturday, September 22, 2012

  • This story does make me smile. It doesn't matter what form the exam takes or what it's called... what matters is the the kids who leave school at any level are able to function as useful, inclusive and employable members of society. Teachers and headteachers are as guilty as politicians at playing around with a childs education... both sides need to sit down, put their own silly agendas to one side and come up with something which gets the best results for the kids. Once your union agrees to cut the stupid amounts of holiday, extend the school day and stop using schools days to train the better for all!

    Report this comment

    Fat Lady Sings

    Saturday, September 22, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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