From our archives: The EBacc subjects

by Gillian Cooke, 03 January 2018

With new government targets to increase the take up of EBacc subjects among Year 10 students, it seems appropriate to look back at these subjects in the curriculum of our ancestors.

Until 1951, candidates had to pass in a range of subjects in order to gain a certificate and until 1917 they were independent of government control. Our first Junior Examination Regulations for under 16s required candidates to take Reading Aloud, Dictation, Arithmetic, Geography, and English History as compulsory elements. The further sections, from which candidates had to choose three subjects, were Religious Knowledge, English, Latin, Greek, French, German, Pure Maths, Mechanics and Hydrostatics, Chemistry and Zoology, and Botany but all candidates had to include Religious Knowledge unless a parent made a formal objection.

When the Cambridge Junior Examinations made the transition to the (Junior) School Certificate in 1917 it was possible, for a while, to enter both exams jointly. The new exam also included compulsory and optional sections but with slightly different compulsory subjects. Candidates still had to take Dictation and Arithmetic, but Geography and History were replaced by English Language and Literature and a second language, from either, Latin, Greek, French, German, Spanish or Dutch.

By 1924 the new School Certificate had become a mainstream examination and the subject categories are set out in the image at the top of the page. Gone are the old Junior Local Examination subjects of Book keeping, Mensuration and Surveying, Shorthand, Hygiene, Drawing, and Music and many of the remaining subjects are fairly recognisable as EBacc subjects today. But regulation was light and, as these regulations show, schools were also invited to submit their own subject syllabuses for examination!

Gillian Cooke
Group Archivist, Cambridge Assessment

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