New GCSE stats: rise of the English Baccalaureate comes to a halt as languages decline

New official figures reveal that the rise in the percentage of pupils taking GCSEs in academic English Baccalaureate (EBac) subjects has come to a halt.

Provisional data published today by the Department for Education reveals a slight drop in the proportion of students entered for the EBac, which is made up of maths, English, science, a language and either history or geography. The drop in EBac entries, from 38.7 per cent of pupils in 2014 to 38.6 per cent this summer, is the first fall since 2011.

The setback for the goverment’s policy comes just as a new compulsory requirement for all pupils to study EBac subjects up to GCSE level comes into force for students starting secondary school in September.

Today’s figures also show that just 23.9 per cent of pupils in state-funded schools achieved the EBac – achieving grade C or above in five specific subjects – this summer, a figure unchanged since last year.

The slight drop in EBac entries has been caused in part by a decline in entries for language GCSEs, which were taken by just 49.3 per cent of pupils in state-funded schools this summer, down from 50.5 per cent in 2014. Maths entries were also down slightly, from 97.7 per cent of pupils last year to 97.4 per cent.

But entries in English, science and humanities all rose this summer.

Today’s figures also show a 0.2 percentage point rise in the proportion of pupils at state-funded schools achieving five GCSEs at grade A* to C including English and maths, the government’s headline performance measure, from 55.9 per cent to 56.1 per cent.

In maintained schools, 55.1 per cent of pupils achieved this measure, compared with 44.7 per cent of pupils at sponsored academies and 63.3 per cent of pupils at converter academies. For free schools the figure was 50.5 per cent.

However, the department has not published data on the proportion of schools meeting its “floor standard” of 40 per cent of pupils or more achieving five GCSEs at grade A* to C including English and maths.

The DfE has published each school’s individual figure for the proportion of students achieving this measure. But a spokeswoman for the department said it could be “misleading” to publish the national figure because the data is provisional and does not take into account late results, re-marks following appeals or other school amendments such as the removal of pupils recently arrived from overseas.

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