Less Students Are Taking Design & Music GSCE’s

Less Students Are Taking Design & Music GSCE’s

The latest figures of Ofqual have shown that less students are opting for technical subjects at GCSE. Meanwhile, fewer students are choosing to study English at A-level.

Education unions have started to warn that the Government’s focus on more traditional academic subjects is in danger of narrowing the curriculum that schools can offer.

This is after a group of universities decided they would no longer offer a list of ‘preferred’ academic subjects. This is following criticism that creative and technical subjects are being reduced in schools.

Less Students

Less students than ever before have been entered into GCSE subjects not included in the English Baccalaureate. The Baccalaureate judges schools on the number pupils taking up core subjects. These are English, maths, science, a foreign language and either history or geography. Entries to subjects not included in these fell by 9 per cent this year, while entries to design & technology fell by 23 per cent. The study further showed that entries to media subjects dropped by 12 per cent and music by 3 per cent.

National Education Union joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said of the study:

Government policy is continuing to destroy the arts, PE, creative and technical subjects.

Recently, The Independent revealed that the Russell Group would stop offering ‘facilitating subjects’. These subjects are similar to those included in the Baccalaureate. This came following criticism that the curriculum was being narrowed.

Leaders of unions and the are sector are petitioning the government to drop the measure following the move from 24 UK universities. James Bowen, director of policy at NAHT said:

We’d urge the government to abandon its EBacc target as it is doing more harm than good, and evidentially narrowing opportunities for students.

Strangely, it isn’t just less traditional subjects seeing a decrease in students. Uptake of A-level English fell by 13 per cent this year according to Ofqual.

Is There A Reason?

Students currently sitting their A-levels were the first group to sit the harder English GCSE in 2017. Over the last two years, English A-level entries have dropped by one fifth. 2017 saw 74,350 entries while 2019 had just 58,870.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said:

Unsurprisingly, the mechanistic nature of these GCSEs is failing to inspire a love of English in students. It is very sad to see that this has resulted in the decline in A-level English entries we are now witnessing.


GCSE German uptake was also down this year, but only by 2.5 per cent. Overall more students are taking up modern foreign languages at GCSE, and A-level uptake maintained it’s uptake.

When asked about the decreases, school standards minister Nick Gibb said:

It’s important that young people leave school prepared for life in modern Britain and with the widest set of options available to them. Core academic subjects, such as English, maths, science and foreign languages are key to making that a reality. The arts are an important part of the curriculum, and I know the best schools combine a rich cultural education with excellence in core subjects.

But what do you think? Has your school seen less students taking up these subjects? Or have you seen a different effect? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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