More than four out of 10 secondary schools have axed key subjects from the curriculum as a result of the Government's new English Baccalaureate, a conference was told yesterday. Drama, arts, religious education and information technology have all suffered severe cutbacks with teachers in these areas being made redundant.
In addition, teenagers are being told to switch GCSE subjects in mid-year to help their schools do well in exam-league tables. In most cases, it has been to slot in a languages GCSE – one of five subject areas demanded by the new qualification. Youngsters have even been enrolled on "twilight sessions" after school to try to ensure a top grade pass in the new subject area.
A survey of 2,500 teachers by the National Association of Schoolmasters/ Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) revealed 43 per cent of schools had axed or severely reduced provision of some subject areas as a result of the new qualification.
A breakdown showed 15 per cent had cut information technology, 13 per cent arts, drama and music, and 10 per cent religious education.
Dave Beck, from the Curriculum Foundation, said that schools had asked pupils to give up GCSE subject options in the middle of their second year of study. "They were asked to take up a language option," he said. "This wasn't done in the best interests of the children."
Under the Government's new English Baccalaureate, teenagers will be awarded a certificate if they achieve five A* to C grade passes in English, maths, science, languages and a humanity – history or geography.
The NASUWT survey also revealed that 26 per cent of schools had planned to increase provision in history and geography as a result of the Baccalaureate – and 29 per cent planned to improve languages provision.
Andy Burnham, Labour's shadow Education Secretary, who organised the conference, said: "What has this Government got against creativity? They are sending a message to any young person that if they have a creative talent they are somehow second best."