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ASCL comment on GCSE results

Commenting on today’s GCSE results, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“Congratulations to students, schools and colleges on today’s GCSE results which are the product of a great deal of hard work. We are nearing the end of a massive programme of qualification reforms which has been extremely challenging. Our teachers deserve a huge amount of credit for all that they have done to support students taking new GCSEs which have been deliberately designed to be more difficult, and which have undoubtedly caused increased levels of stress and anxiety.

“It is great to see that there has been an increase in entries to art and design. However, we continue to be concerned about the long-term decline in the uptake of other creative arts subjects, and design and technology. This has been caused by the government’s obsession with measuring schools largely on performance in a small suite of traditional academic subjects combined with education cuts which have left them without enough funding to sustain smaller-entry courses.

“Entries to design and technology have fallen significantly this year. Since 2010 the number of entries to this GCSE subject have dropped by more than 180,000 in England. The uptake of music, drama, and media/ film/ TV studies has also fallen this year continuing long-term declines in subjects which are vital parts of our culture and economy.

“The improvement in the uptake of French and Spanish this year is encouraging, but it is nowhere near enough to make up for the decline in entries to modern foreign languages since 2010. Even taking into account this year’s improvement in French uptake, entries in this subject have still fallen by more than 40,000 since 2010 in England. German entries have fallen again this year and by more than 25,000 since 2010. These subjects are part of the English Baccalaureate suite but students are deterred from taking them because of their perceived difficulty.

“It is clear that we need to rethink the way in which we measure the performance of schools, and that our schools and colleges urgently need an improved level of funding from the government. We also need a national strategy on improving the uptake of modern foreign languages rather than trying to lever entries through the blunt instrument of school performance measures.”

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