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The rise of soft courses

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« on: January 13, 2011, 05:12:15 am »

The rise of soft courses:
Half a million students fail to hit GCSE target

By Kate Loveys
Last updated at 8:59 AM on 13th January 2011

More than 550,000 pupils failed to achieve five passes in traditional subjects at GCSE because they were signed up to take easier options such as hairdressing, league tables revealed yesterday.

Only one in six youngsters achieved the standard which is now expected of them by the Education Secretary, Michael Gove.

Mr Gove believes this leaves them lacking basic academic skills and ill-prepared to enter the workplace or further education.

The findings are the result of a controversial new ranking system for secondary schools – called the English Baccalaureate – which Mr Gove says exposes the shift under Labour towards ‘soft’ courses such as hairdressing salon services.

To meet the Education Secretary’s new measure, all pupils are expected to score A* to C in the five core GCSE subjects of English, mathematics, science, languages and humanities. But just 15.6 per cent of pupils passed the threshold last summer.

In more than half of state secondaries – some 1,600 – fewer than 10 per cent achieved this.

And in 270 schools, there were no pupils who achieved it.

Mr Gove wants this measure to be one of the statistics parents use to judge the value of schools.

But his plan has sparked a major political row and provoked furious reaction from headteachers and teaching unions.

Yesterday Andy Burnham, Labour’s education spokesman, accused Mr Gove of telling youngsters they can ‘study Latin but not ICT’. Teaching unions claimed he was ‘relentlessly elitist’.

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