Pupils ‘flock back to core exam subjects’ after launch of E-Bacc

SECONDARY school pupils are flocking back to core academic subjects most valued by universities, according to new research.

The Government has claimed the increase in pupils taking traditional choices at GCSE is down to the English Baccalaureate (E-Bacc) it launched in this year’s league tables.

GCSE students are awarded the E-Bacc if they achieve at least six A* to C passes in subjects including English, maths, a foreign language, two sciences and either history or geography.

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The Department for Education (DfE) released figures yesterday which it claims show the new performance measure has had an immediate impact in the subjects pupils are choosing at GCSE.

A survey of almost 700 maintained secondary schools by the National Centre for Social Research, for the DfE, shows that 33 per cent of pupils taking GCSEs next year and 47 per cent of pupils taking GCSEs in 2013 will be doing a combination of subjects that could lead to an award of the E-Bacc.

This compares with data which shows that last year just 22 per cent of GCSE-stage pupils were entered for the full set of E-Bacc subjects.

Ministers say that the take-up of history, geography and languages indicates that the E-Bacc is reversing the long-term drift away from these subjects, and that they are bouncing back to the levels of a decade ago.

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“Subjects such as physics, chemistry, history, geography, French and German give students the opportunity to succeed in every field,” Education Secretary Michael Gove said. “The numbers studying a proper range of rigorous subjects has been in decline.

“Now, thanks to our English Baccalaureate, that has changed.

“More young people are now following the courses which the best colleges and top employers value.

“The Government is committed to raising standards for all children and ensuring every child has a proper rounded education.”

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The figures show that the number of pupils taking history is up from 31 per cent in the 2010 GCSEs to 39 per cent of the year group who have just chosen their subjects and will finish their studies in 2013.

In geography the level of students taking the subject at GCSE has risen from 26 per cent last year to 33 per cent of those finishing in two years’ time. There have also been increases in languages and the three sciences.

Last year just 16 per cent of pupils – around one in six – opted to study three science subjects at GCSE. This has now increased to 29 per cent.

The number studying at least one language at GCSE has also increased from 43 per cent last year to 52 per cent of pupils who will do their exams in 2013. Last week it was revealed that modern languages was one of the subject areas which had seen a decline at GCSE level this year.

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However the Government’s new figures show this will be reversed by the time 14 and 15-year-olds in year ten sit their GCSEs in 2013.

The creation of the E-Bacc caused controversy earlier this year as schools were being judged on how they performed in their 2010 GCSE results when the performance measure did not even exist.

Last week union leaders warned its creation and the devaluing of some vocational qualifications in league tables risked pushing some students into subjects which did not best suit their needs.