A decline in A-level entries for music, drama, French and German is "making a mockery of the government's claim to be promoting social mobility", a heads' union has said.
The Association of School and College Leaders said that schools are having to cut courses in these subjects because the relatively small number of candidates signing up to them means they are no longer financially viable.
The number of A-level entries in England dropped by 1.2 per cent in French compared with last year, 4.2 per cent in German, 4 per cent in drama and by 9.4 per cent in music, according to figures from the Joint Council for Qualifications.
The ASCL said schools cutting back on these subjects was a reflection of "severe budget pressures" on post-16 education, which has experienced a real-terms cut since 2010.
Given the 42 per cent drop in AS-level entries after they were "decoupled" from A levels, ASCL said it was concerned about a narrowing of the curriculum, which was "reducing student choice".
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'Vital for our economy'
“Beyond today, however, the government must get to grips with the continuing decline in entries to music, drama, French and German.
“These subjects are vitally important to the future of young people and to the economy. Drama and music underpin our cultural life and creative industries, which are worth a fortune to the country. French and German are essential to the transaction of international trade and will be particularly important in post-Brexit Britain.
“However, the level of funding for post-16 education is simply not sufficient to sustain courses with relatively small numbers of students, and many schools and colleges have no alternative other than to cut these courses. Increasingly, they will be available only in the private sector, making a mockery of the government’s claim to be promoting social mobility."
Mr Barton called on the government to "act urgently to improve the level of investment in post-16 education and the uptake of these important subjects".