Academies behind rest of state sector in history exam entries

16th July 2010 at 01:00
Figures from Whitehall reveal low take-up of academic courses, historian claims

Pupils at academies are considerably less likely than their counterparts in other state schools to be entered for a GCSE in virtually every major academic subject, new Government figures show.

They reveal that barely a fifth (20.9 per cent) of academy pupils were entered for a history GCSE last year compared with 30 per cent of all state school pupils.

These are the latest figures to show the low levels of up-take of academic subjects in academies, which are the cornerstone of the coalition Government's education reform programme. Its massive academy expansion is justified on the notion that academy GCSE results are rising at twice the rate of mainstream state schools.

Just two weeks ago it was revealed that fewer than half of these schools' "GCSE passes" are in academic GCSEs.

The latest numbers illustrate that while more than two-fifths of state school pupils were entered for a modern foreign language GCSE, only a quarter (26.1 per cent) of academy pupils got the same opportunity.

The statistics have emerged as part of long-running efforts by the think-tank Civitas, the Labour MP and TV historian Tristram Hunt, and The TES to reveal data showing exactly how the academy sector has achieved its "GCSE" successes.

Mr Hunt said: "We know academies are teaching in difficult communities, often with disadvantaged pupils. But that is no excuse for not offering these young people a full education including academic subjects like history ... and geography."

Parliamentary questions tabled by Mr Hunt have already shown that only 49 per cent of academies' GCSE results were made up of academic GCSEs last year, compared with 73 per cent for other state schools.

Figures for individual subjects now show that only 17 per cent of academy pupils were entered for a geography GCSE, compared with 26 per cent of all state pupils.

English literature entries were also significantly lower in academies, at 64.7 per cent compared with 77 per cent for all state schools; as were entries in physics, chemistry, biology and core science.

Last year, the Conservatives, then in opposition, highlighted the fact that only 31 per cent of pupils sat history GCSEs in 2008. Then, Michael Gove, now Education Secretary, said it was vital "to end the decline and fall of history in our schools".

This week in Parliament Mr Gove admitted he was "worried about the use of so-called equivalent qualifications instead of academic GCSEs".

Anastasia de Waal, Civitas education director, said: "This really does make a mockery of the academies being the flagship for improvement. These schools are not being sold as an alternative form of education, so the fact that they are shunning these academic subjects is shocking.

"Michael Gove is championing academic subjects on the one hand and non-academic academies on the other.

"This is all because the Conservatives jumped before they looked and didn't bother to investigate what academies were actually doing."

Civitas research last year revealed that two unnamed academies had entered 6 per cent of pupils for a history GCSE and another academy had entered no pupils for geography GCSE out of a cohort of 147.

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