NVG representatives- Dave Brockington; Kenny Frederick; Clarissa Williams


The New Visions Group (NVG)14-19 Curriculum sub group presented a paper in December 2013 which made reference to the ModBac curriculum as featured in the Ken Spours’ ‘Comparing Bacs’ taxonomy1 and as adopted and developed by Andrew Chubb, Principal of Archbishop Sentamu Academy in Hull.

Following the publication of the 3rd and final report from the Skills Commission Taskforce2 recommending the adoption of a ‘National Baccalaureate’ framework – which references the ModBac as a contributory model for the development of such an emerging ‘National Baccalaureate’ system- a visit was arranged for NVG members to observe the ModBac in operation in Hull.

The NVG identified ‘Key Questions’ to inform the field research visit to the ModBac pilot in Hull. These ‘Key Questions’ are presented here for the interrogation and exploration of the various contributory models for any emerging National Baccalaureate framework.

The questions were compiled with the help of members of the New Visions for Education Group (NVG): Tim Brighouse, Alan Parker, Eddie Playfair, Richard Pring, Ken Spours and Geoff Whitty.

1. Spours, K. Comparing baccalaureate purposes and design (IOE November 2012).
2. The third report of the independent Skills Taskforce. Qualifications Matter: improving the curriculum and assessment for all. (2014).

Key Questions (on the ModBac pilot and other contributory models) for informing any further emerging National Baccalaureate framework as recommended by the Skills Commission Taskforce.

1. If we accept: our current curriculum is too narrow even though some students will take 10+ GCSEs….How is ModBac (or any other contributory model to the ‘National Baccalaureate’ framework) developing 21st Century competences beyond that -GCSEs and A Levels – core knowledge and key disciplines? (For example: research and digital skills; people and societal skills?)

2. If we accept: our current education system is too divided. How does the ModBac (or any other contributory model) help relate and develop both general and vocational learning?

3. If we accept: our current education system is too selective and insufficiently progression oriented…..How does the ModBac (or any other contributory model) develop progression skills and offer a ‘ramp’ that students can climb?

4. If we accept: our current education system tends to exclude the bottom 50%…..How is the ModBac (or any other contributory model) inclusive?

5. If we accept: our current education system is too examination fixated….How does the ModBac (or any other contributory model) develop assessment for learning and enhance the role of professional judgement?

6. If we accept: The current English education system has been littered with small scale experiments….How does ModBac (or any other contributory model) purpose and design relate to the other large-scale ‘Bac’ initiatives in the UK (e.g. International Baccalaureate and the Welsh ‘Bac’)?

7. Many schools are sticking to the notion and practice of accumulating GSCE exam successes across years 9, 10 and 11 –despite government pressure towards only counting the ‘first entry’ for school performance league table measurement. Does the ModBac school pilot (or any other contributory model) adhere to this ‘accumulation’ procedure (So that, for example, the final certificate is gained by age18/19 with a profile that shows what each learner achieved and when?)

8. Are the pathways chosen by learners ‘flagged’ for likely career outcomes?

9. When should and when does independent advice and guidance (IAG) happen?

10. How independent is the advice and guidance?

11. Do those involved in the leadership of the ModBac pilot ( or any other contributory model) think that the overall national system of examination and assessment (ie: mainly externally set and marked exams) is fit for purpose? If not, what system would be preferred?

12. Does the ModBac pilot (or any other contributory model for a National Baccalaureate framework) offer learners -and parents- a choice between the ModBac and a more traditional offer ….or are the pathways incorporated within the one single ModBac (or other model) framework?

13. If choice is offered …how difficult is it to achieve viable group size –and resources- for parallel strands?….Has there been any resistance from learners/parents?

14. Is the ModBac framework (or any other contributory model) accessible to all levels of ability/styles of learning and engagement….or do some learners struggle to cope with the breadth/rigour of this kind of programme?

15. Has collaboration with other local schools/colleges been explored /utilised?

16. How much interest is there/has there been locally and how is the model being received by other institutions locally?

17. Has there been measurable improvement in outcomes for learners (How are these measured)?



The Principal Andrew Chubb set the context.

The ‘Archie’, as it is affectionately known locally, moved to its state of the art buildings in 2011, the architecture and design of which in themselves send a clear message to its growing numbers of students that they are highly valued. The school’s ethos is clearly Christian based, with the Archbishop of York an engaged figurehead. It serves a predominantly white British working class community, with a profile of low parental previous experience of higher education, and ascription of value to its status. The school embraces inclusiveness, with a newly built Alternative Provision Unit (APU) for behaviourally challenged young people from other neighbouring schools due to come on stream in Autumn 2014.

The Archbishop Sentamu Academy was recently inspected by OFSTED in February and was graded ‘good with outstanding features’. (See the OFSTED School Data Dashboard for attainment outcomes:

The school is an 11-18 Secondary with 1370 pupils on roll.

The Academy has not adhered to the wholesale adoption of the EBacc framework and the practice and policy to enter students early for their examinations remains intact where this is appropriate. Andrew Chubb emphasised that the ModBac model (planned in principle to be applicable for use from KS2 –KS5) is itself a framework that can incorporate the current English Baccalaureate ‘EBacc’ requirements where needed and is not a strait-jacket. This is because the ModBac initiative enables schools and colleges to build on the imperatives of the Ebacc while at the same time allowing movement towards a wider and more unified recognition of learner attainment and achievement from within vocational, practical and creative aspects of the curriculum. The advantage of this curriculum model allows the school flexibility to achieve a range of objectives for its students.

When asked how the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) managed to convince staff of the virtues of the ModBac system it became clear that Continuing Professional Development (CPD) was a vital component of its effectiveness, since a continuously strong commitment to CPD is the cornerstone of the drive for improvement in professional performance.

Much can be interpreted about the climate and culture of the Academy when the Principal states that Performance Management Review (PMR) is not based on a ‘payment by results’ model , and he stressed the need to protect and develop collegiality amongst staff.

There is no fondness for the Partnership in Excellence (PIXL) project with its overwhelming emphasis on data since there is a preference for the concept of mastery of levels which the ModBac model allows. The Principal was aware of the deliberations of the Heads Round Table (HTRT) with its similar views and very similar ‘Bac’ model for curriculum reform.

He felt that there was more scope for strengthening the learning community of 30 schools participating in the ModBac pilot network. The subscription to this particular network is a very affordable £200.00.

It was reported that the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) is keen to link into ModBac especially for the Years 5-8 phase.

The recruitment of high calibre staff as a recurring issue was stressed, with expensive advertising often unsuccessful. Teacher mobility is limited in this geographic location, with the problem of re-circulating staff just beginning to diminish slightly. Hull as a city is now higher profile with its new status as a city of culture, which might have a positive effect on recruitment.

The school was not convinced of the lasting value of ‘Teach First’ with the exception of one outstanding teacher who has come through that route.
The students are based in 5 ‘mini-schools’ of 250 students in each with a clear structure of pastoral and learning support provided to mentor and guide students.

We met with the designated Director of the ModBac who combines this role with being in charge of Business Studies, and who explained some of the reasons for choosing the ModBac, with its strong ethos of student ‘buy in’.

Parents had been consulted about the ModBac and there had been very little in the way of opposition to the path that the Academy wanted to take.
ModBac is externally moderated and validated through the ModBac Foundation partner arrangements. The system of assessment is delivered via the Teaching and Learning Machine organisation (TLM) and there appears to be high satisfaction in applying and using this approach. TLM courses are currently in the process of adding to the number of technical courses that are now or will be formally seen as acceptable equivalent qualifications by the DfE.

The ‘honours’ element of the ModBac was explained by the Director; in essence this is the menu of additional subjects available to study, e.g. Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) and the inclusion of extra-curricular activities such as international links.

The third vital strand of the ModBac curricular provision at the school concerns the ‘Serve’ element, one of the key school values. A range of activities come under this umbrella and are accredited, including work experience in Year 10. Students receive excellent independent advice and guidance (IAG) and are encouraged and given practical support to apply to colleges or the 6th Form. We discussed the wider learning to learn skills contribution of ASDAN, one of the early development partners of the ModBac , which although the chosen avenue for the ‘service’ aspect at other schools, (e.g. in the ModBac pilot at Billericay), is less so in Archbishop Sentamu Academy. The lead teacher for Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) bemoaned the current DfE indifference to PSHE.

Since introducing the ModBac, the school has experienced a decrease in its ‘not in education employment or training’ (NEET) figures.
Introduction of the 6th Form Career Academy, with open doors to business, internships, and to mentoring, is proving a significant factor in attracting students and raising their aspirations. Our meeting with a selected group of students evidenced a very strong identification with the school’s aims and some examples of gifted and talented students being actively encouraged to aim high.

Overall, the staff have observed more positive change in student attitudes, which was reflected in the very recent Ofsted report.

The purpose of this report is to provide a flavour of what we saw during the visit to Archbishop Sentamu Academy in Hull, a school that operates a ‘ModBac’ pilot, which was referenced by the Skills Commission Task Force as a contributory model to its policy recommendations for the introduction of a ‘National Baccalaureate’.

We clearly could not find the answers to all our questions in a short visit but we learned a great deal about why some schools feel brave enough to choose their own pathway, in the firm belief that is absolutely the right one for their students. Principals like Andrew Chubb, his governors and staff clearly feel confident that they are moving in a positive and appropriate direction and the recent Ofsted judgement of the school does not appear to have contradicted their quality of provision or local standing in the community. On the John Sentamu Academy website there is sufficient information to allow parents and the community to learn and understand why the ModBac was originally chosen and how it operates. Standards in students’ achievement remain high in relation to student attainment of 5 A*-C including English and Maths. Overall, the ModBac curriculum and assessment package seems to be having a positive effect, although the Principal and his team would be the first to admit that there is still much more to be achieved, including establishing closer learning community networks within the development of this proto-type Baccalaureate model. There is an openness to development of the model and a willingness to share experiences of effective practice with others and with visitors.

Finally, it is good to see that this ModBac model has been endorsed by Tim Brighouse, Mike Tomlinson, and Mick Waters.


The NVG 14-19 Curriculum sub group would wish to endorse further uptake of the ModBac as a contributory framework for any ‘National Baccalaureate’ in line with the recommendations by the Skills Commission Taskforce.

We would want to emphasise also to the Skills Commission Taskforce that it is vital however that whichever model, or combination of models, is recommended for implementation great care is taken that it does not result in the introduction of a divisive bi-partite provision. Any National Baccalaureate must essentially be an overarching and unifying qualification that does not separate the academic from the vocational into a perceived superior and inferior set of pathways and qualifications.

The Labour Party’s references to a ‘forgotten 50%’as an echo of the 1963 John Newsom Report ‘Half Our Future’ is perhaps on its own not particularly helpful, and needs also to be accompanied by a statement of faith in the unifying and coherent rigour of any new qualification framework. We would not want the introduction of any vocational route within a National Baccalaureate to corrode or diminish an equal entitlement for all. Indeed we would be wanting to see a wide core offering that will encourage and enrich the critical faculties needed to be developed by all functioning citizens in the coming decades.

On Behalf of the NVG 14-19 Curriculum sub group
3. See Full OFSTED Report: