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Sport colleges spark high jump in PE entries

PE is the new boom GCSE subject with thousands more pupils taking the course this year.

Figures released this week revealed that numbers taking a full course in PE rose by 10 per cent on last year to 134,134, while entries for the short course surged by 19 per cent, to 20,730.

Experts put the increases down to the rising number of specialist sports colleges, up from 11 in 1997 to 290 now. The Government's target of two hours' sport a week at key stage 4 also means more young people are doing PE in the run-up to GCSEs.

Elsewhere entries for the short-course in citizenship more than trebled, to 27,184, driven largely by the fact that the subject became compulsory in 2002.

Entries in religious studies rose for the eighth successive year, full-course numbers rose by 7 per cent and short-course by 11 per cent.

The Professional Council for Religious Education put the increase in short-course numbers in particular down to the fact that pupils could now get a qualification after only 70 hours' tuition.

The increases should be put in context: the number of 15-year-old pupils rose 3.4 per cent this year. Two other subjects, history, where entries rose 5.5 per cent, and maths, up 4.5 per cent, also celebrated increasing entries.

Entries for the full intermediate General National Vocational Qualification in ICT also continued their remorseless rise, growing 20 per cent to 54,658. The subject, worth four GCSEs and offered as an online course by Thomas Telford college, is widely seen as a short-cut for schools hoping to climb league tables.

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