GCSE results: Computing entries rocket as languages and creative subjects plummet

Schools are prioritising the Progress 8 measure over the English Baccalaureate measure, figures suggest

Kaye Wiggins

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The number of pupils taking GCSEs in computing rose by 76 per cent this year, in the wake of the government’s decision to count it towards the crucial Progress 8 accountability measure .

This year 62,454 pupils took a GCSE in the subject, up from 35,414 last year – a bigger percentage increase than in any other subject. Schools have to enter pupils for GCSEs in at least three EBacc subjects to maximise their scores on the Progress 8 measure (article free for subscribers), and computing counts as one of these three.

Other subjects with large rises in entries included additional science, for which entries increased by 10.5 per cent, geography, where they rose by 7 per cent, and chemistry, history and physics, for which entries were up by 5.7 per cent, 5.5 per cent and 4.6 per cent respectively. 

But the rise in entries for traditional academic subjects comes alongside falling entries in creative subjects. Entries for GCSEs in design and technology fell by 9.5 per cent and entries for art and design fell 5.9 per cent. 

The decline of languages

Meanwhile, languages entries are declining despite the government’s decision to include modern foreign languages in the EBacc performance measure. Entries in Spanish rose slightly but those in French fell by 8.1 per cent.

Schools can maximise their Progress 8 scores without entering pupils for a language, by counting humanities and sciences as the three EBacc subjects, so the drop in language entries suggests schools are prioritising the Progress 8 measure over the EBacc measure. 

Suzanne O’Farrell, assessment and curriculum specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, said today’s results suggested schools were using sciences and humanities to maximise their Progress 8 scores instead of languages because they believed pupils were more likely to score good grades in those subjects. 

"Traditionally it has been easier for schools and children to achieve a higher grade in geography, history and the sciences than the languages, so therefore they’re putting them in that [Progress 8] bucket,” she said. 

"The centre policy might be to enter for those subjects as opposed to the languages, which [is] concerning.”

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Kaye Wiggins

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