Education & Family

Traditional GCSE subjects for all pupils

Exam hall Image copyright PA
Image caption All pupils will be required to take GCSEs in traditional academic subjects

All secondary school pupils in England will have to take GCSEs in core academic subjects, under plans to be set out by Schools Minister Nick Gibb.

Mr Gibb will say he makes "no apology for expecting every child" to have a "high-quality education".

The Conservative manifesto pledged that all pupils would take GCSEs in English, maths, science, a language and either history or geography.

Heads' leader Brian Lightman says it will be "challenging" for schools.

The schools minister will also warn that "textbooks are now a rare sight in English classrooms", with only 10% of primary maths teachers using them.

He says he will challenge "textbook publishers to do better" in producing good quality resources for classrooms.

Mr Gibb, in a speech later, will argue that "knowledge is power" and that it is the most disadvantaged who are in greatest need of a rigorous academic education.

The schools minister will argue that there has been a dishonest pattern of poorer students being encouraged to take "less demanding qualifications", which allowed the "powers that be" to say that overall standards were rising.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Nick Gibb says that too many classrooms do not have textbooks

The Conservatives' election manifesto said that pupils would have to study GCSEs in the so-called EBacc subjects - English, maths, science, a language and history or geography. And that if schools did not offer them, they would not be eligible for a top Ofsted rating.

This would not apply to pupils with special needs.

Mr Gibb will acknowledge that this will be a "significant challenge" for schools, with 39% of pupils currently entering all these subjects and 24% getting a good grade in all of them.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan had spoken during the election campaign of the need for schools to have more stability and less constant change.

And her schools minister is expected to say that he will listen to school leaders before introducing the requirement - with the details of how this will be implemented still to be announced.

"We will ensure that schools have adequate lead-in time to prepare for any major changes," Mr Gibb is expected to say.

"We will support these schools to raise standards but make no apology for expecting every child to receive a high-quality core academic education."

Mr Gibb will argue that access to a strong academic education is the key to social mobility and his proposals will "provide the foundations of an education system with social justice at its heart".

He said it was "pernicious" to suggest that "a core academic curriculum represents a kind of elitism".

But he will also acknowledge the temptation to keep adding extra requirements to the school timetable - and that this will always mean that something else will be reduced.

As a minister, he says, he has been lobbied to add subjects from Esperanto to den building.

Brian Lightman, leader of the ASCL head teachers' union, said that the key question would be how the changes were implemented and he welcomed the commitment to talks about how this would work in practice.

"It's enormously challenging, but we recognise the importance of a broad academic education for all young people," said Mr Lightman.

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