New figures show a dramatic rise in the take-up of traditional academic subjects such as history, geography, languages and science at GCSE level.
The shift coincides with the introduction by the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, of the English Baccalaureate, which is to be awarded to candidates with five A* to C grade passes made up of maths, English and these core subjects.
The figures also show that the number of pupils studying all five subjects which go towards the EBacc has more than doubled between the 2010 exams and those who will sit the new exam in 2014.
The trend has been criticised by head teachers' leaders, who claim it has been achieved at the expense of other equally important subjects such as music and religious studies.
"What we would like to see is a fully rounded baccalaureate which gives pupils a chance to show their academic and creative potential as well as volunteering and civic activities," said Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers.
Meanwhile, pupils, schools and local authorities who have joined forces to seek a judicial review of the marking of this year's GCSE English exams are to meet next Tuesday to decide their next move.
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