Suffolk: Danish teachers think EBacc is ‘English humour’

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.


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“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.”

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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.

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