Thousands of youngsters taking science, languages and religious studies at GCSE face being written off as ineligible for the Government’s new English baccalaureate, it emerged yesterday.
The Government’s White Paper on education last month, said it would be awarded to anyone gaining five A* to C grades in English, maths, a science, a language – modern or ancient – and a humanities subject.
However, ministers have now announced some GCSE science and languages courses will not count towards it.. In addition, GCSEs in religious education will not be considered as a humanities subject.
The move has angered the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, which represents most of the state secondary schools in the country.
It believes it will put thousands of pupils who have been encouraged by ministers to take up science and language courses at a disadvantage.
In addition, religious groups are adamant that r.e should be included as a humanities subject.
The number of youngsters taking up the subject at GCSE has soared in recent years as it is seen as giving youngsters a cultural understanding of different faiths.
The Government’s thinking on the new qualification emerged when it revealed next month’s secondary school exam league tables would for the first time show the proportion of pupils at every school achieving the necessary results for the EBacc.
Applied science and language GCSEs, taken by more than 20,000 youngsters, were excluded from the list of qualifications to be recognised. In addition, only history and geography would qualify as a humanities subject.
“We are very concerned that the new baccalaureate does not disadvantage pupils who are already part way through GCSE courses that do not appear on the list approved for inclusion in the new baccalaureate,” said John Townsley, a senior member of the SSAT and headteacher of Morley High School in Leeds.
“Thousands of young people study GCSEs in applied science and languages as well as religious education which do not appear on the list for inclusion in the new baccalaureate. These are rigorous courses that lead many people on to successful A-level studies and universities.”
He added: “Schools offered these subjects in good faith and young people took them on not knowing they might not form part of an important qualification which might improve prospects in later life.”
Mr Townsley has written to Education Secretary Michael Gove seeking a meeting to convince him to change his mind and persuade him to delay publication of the EBacc measure in next month’s league tables.
He said he supported the idea of the EBacc but wanted to “avoid unintended and potentially damaging consequences “ from the new measure.
Information technology is also not on the list of subjects to qualify for the ranking. One observer said: “It seems you can get it for studying biblical Hebrew but not a modern day understanding of technology.”
The Department for Education described its announcement of the list of subjects which would qualify for the EBacc ranking as a “statement of intent”.
“The EBacc is not a new qualification,” it added. “It will recognise students’ achievements across a core of selected academic subjects in getting good passes in rigorous GCSEs or iGCSEs (the international O-level style exam some schools prefer to the GCSE).”
A spokesman added: “The EBacc focus on core academic subjects does not mean we are restricting choices or opportunities for wider studies. Other subjects like religious studies, or applied science or languages, will also be valuable for pupils.
“We recognise the benfits that religious studies can bring to pupils and that is why success in religious studies GCSE will continue to be recognised by other performance table measures.”