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Whiteman: GCSE options are too narrow and no longer offer a ‘general’ range of secondary subjects

Commenting on today’s GCSE results, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Today is a very big day for thousands of secondary students. Congratulations to them and to the school and college staff who’ve put in long hours and extra effort in order to provide support.

“This year we’ve seen a small rise in the number of students getting the top grades, and a rise in the proportion of entries getting at least a 4. This tells us that students and staff are coping with the dramatic changes we have seen to GCSE qualifications over the past couple of years.

“However, we remain concerned about the impact that the increased content and greater number of exams can and will have on everyone. Well-being during study is just as important as the results themselves.

“Although the government’s reforms have seen a significant increase in the number of exams that students must take, perversely the breadth of subjects is getting narrower. We have lost the ‘general’ element of GCSEs, which is a disservice to all concerned.

“NAHT believes that students should have access to a wide variety of options at GCSE, but we continue to see an overall decline in the number of non-EBacc subjects taken. Design and Technology entries, for example, have dropped below 100,000 this year, which is worrying when you consider how important that subject could be for many young people.

“It has been interesting this week to hear the many voices raised in opposition to the EBacc, which pushes schools to offer only a narrow core of academic subjects with only a couple of extra options for other subjects covering the arts, technology, creative and vocational subjects. Even Kenneth Baker, the architect of GCSEs, says this is wrong, and we agree.

“The purpose of GCSEs is to offer a general education. This needs to be broad so that every student can find a combination of subjects that works for them. A Levels, college and university courses are the time and place for students to choose to specialise.

“The EBacc distorts the curriculum offer to no real benefit, certainly not to students. It is much too early in their school lives to enforce a narrowing of the curriculum. The EBacc is a curse that schools and students have to operate under, and it is high time we did away with it.”

Press and Media contacts:

Steven George
NAHT Head of Press and Media
01444 472886
07970 907730

Rose Tremlett 
Senior Press Officer 
07545 354363


Email :
press.office@naht.org.uk