GCSEs: Fears of private school 'minority' subject cuts

EXCLUSIVE: Warning Covid recession may mean private schools cutting A levels and GCSEs in subjects like Mandarin

Catherine Lough

GCSEs and A levels: There are fears that the Covid recession could force private schools to cut 'minority' subjects

Private schools may have to reduce their offer of "minority" GCSE and A-level subjects as they adjust to the costs of the pandemic, their bursars are warning.

David Woodgate, chief executive of the Independent Schools' Bursars Association, told Tes that a potential "deep recession" as a result of the pandemic could mean that some "minority subjects", such as Mandarin or economics, are dropped in some private schools.

Related: Mandarin eclipses French, say private school heads

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Mandarin: The state secondary school where the only language taught is Mandarin

"I think any subject would be looked at under the microscope," he said. "I think a lot of schools would like to continue Latin or classics…maybe they drop Chinese if there isn’t demand for it or look at other minority subjects.

Covid threat to GCSE 'minority' subjects

"It could be things like languages, it could be some variations on history – obviously it’s not core subjects – but, again, it will come down to looking at what pupils are looking for at GCSE and A level."

He said schools might also look at combining a subject where there were currently two sets into one, larger class, adding: "I know some schools where they have subjects as a formal academic subject and they are thinking of turning them into an after-school club."

Mr Woodgate said he knew of one school that had stopped offering A-level economics, replacing this with business studies, as it was losing students who wanted to study business to a local FE college.

"Obviously, schools have faced financial pressures over the last 18 months like any other business," he said.

"We don’t yet know what the new normal will be like," he added.

"We might get a deep recession, we might get a less severe recession, although some of the economic commentators seem to think there will be an economic rebound over the next 12-18 months, and obviously in that latter scenario we can assume parental incomes will not be under the same level of pressure.

"If there’s a deep recession then I think, yes, schools will have to cut their cloth and respond to the whole issue, which might be a change of affordability.

"The other side of the coin is to look at the cost base and I think there’s a lot of root and branch work on things like a curriculum review. Can we justify offering minority subjects if that is actually a cost to the school, in effect?

"You could argue minority subjects are one reason children come to our schools but do you need to be giving a qualification in hieroglyphics?

"I’m not suggesting it’s mainstream modern languages or anything like that where clearly there is still demand, but I think schools are looking very carefully at their offer."



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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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