GCSE and A Level Students Avoiding 'Soft Subjects'

GCSE and A Level Students Avoiding 'Soft Subjects'
By James Mullan
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According to Ofqual, the government department that regulates qualifications, exams and tests in England, 2015 saw more UK students choosing traditional GCSE and A Level subjects than in previous years.

The trend, according to The Guardian newspaper, is thanks to sustained efforts by the UK government to move away from ‘soft subjects’ such as general studies and citizenship studies, (the latter of which, saw a 50% drop in student uptake in 2015). The results highlight the success of a recent UK government drive to encourage students to take more traditional, or ‘facilitating subjects’ and those favoured by UK universities.

Recently released provisional results by Ofqual show a sharp rise in student uptake in all science subjects at both GCSE and A Level, while maths and further maths have also seen a significant increase at AS level.

Ofqual’s chief regulator, Glenys Stacey said, “The subjects that are proving to be more popular are the more traditional subjects, so we have seen modest increases in the sciences – what the Russell Group of universities would call facilitating subjects.I assume that’s in response to some of the performance measures you see now with the Ebacc (English baccalaureate), and no doubt there will be a good number of students who are thinking about their futures and where they wish to go to university.”

Recently, education secretary Nicky Morgan announced that all students starting secondary school in 2015 would be expected to choose GCSE subjects which constitute the government’s Ebacc suite of core subjects, (English, maths, science, a language, and history or geography).

While the government hopes the new Ebacc published results will encourage parents to choose schools based on Ebacc performance, critics have voiced their concern that the move will “marginalise creative subjects such as design, drama or music.”
Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, “It is unsurprising that young people are turning to traditional subjects given the importance of these qualifications in gaining university places and the emphasis the government is placing on them as English baccalaureate (Ebacc) subjects.”

However, not all traditional subjects have fared so well in 2015, the results also show that uptake of modern foreign languages has continued to decline.

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