Press release

Thousands more pupils studying rigorous subjects

New statistics reveal more than a third of GCSE state-school students this year took the EBacc - compared to fewer than a quarter last year.

Pupils achieve the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) if they secure a C or better in English, maths, 2 sciences, history or geography, and a language - the subjects most valued by universities and employers. Since last year, the percentage of pupils who took languages is up 20%, history up 19% and geography up 21%. This is the first cohort that chose their GCSE options after the EBacc was announced.

The figures also show that the numbers taking A levels in the so-called facilitating subjects - defined by the Russell Group of universities as those A levels most commonly required for entry to leading universities and therefore giving students more options - are also up.

Research this week from Edinburgh University found that studying rigorous subjects such as languages, English, maths and science had a greater impact on whether individuals were in professional jobs at the age of 33 than what type of school they attended.

Overall, 60.2% of pupils in state schools achieved at least 5 GCSEs, including English and maths, at C grade or better this year, compared to 58.8% last year.

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss said:

We have reversed the long-term decline of the key academic subjects that give children the best chance to get on in life.

For years children were steered away from subjects like languages and history but the EBacc is fixing that.

Pupils who study these subjects have more options, especially if they come from poorer backgrounds.

In GCSEs this year:

  • 35% of all state-school pupils took the EBacc - up from 23% last year. That equates to 72,000 more pupils taking the EBacc
  • 23% of all state-school pupils achieved the EBacc - up from 16% last year. That equates to 38,000 more pupils achieving the EBacc
  • in some local authority areas, all in London, at least half of pupils entered the EBacc - Wandsworth, Westminster, Barnet, Harrow, Hounslow, Richmond, Sutton and Kingston. In Kingston, Richmond and Sutton, more than 40% of pupils achieved the EBacc
  • but in 4 local authority areas - Middlesbrough, Sandwell, Knowsley and Barnsley - fewer than 20% of pupils entered the EBacc. Sandwell was the only local authority areas where fewer than 9% of pupils achieved the EBacc
  • almost half of state-school pupils entered languages this year - 48%, up from 40% last year. Modern languages became optional at key stage 4 in 2004. This is the highest proportion of pupils taking languages for 7 years:
    • French is up 19% from last year
    • German is up 10% from last year
    • Spanish is up 31% from last year
  • the proportion of pupils entering history or geography this was 60%, up from 50% last year. A higher proportion are taking history than in 1997 while this is the highest proportion of pupils entering geography since 2003

In A levels this year:

  • 41% of A levels students took exams in 2 or more facilitating subjects this year - up from 35% in 2008
  • the number of pupils entering A level sciences is also at record levels:
    • Biology is at its highest since 1996 with 7.4% of pupils entering
    • Chemistry is also at its highest level since 1996, with 6.1% entering
    • a higher proportion of pupils entered physics this year than since 2002
    • more girls entered physics this year than any since 1999
    • entries from girls for chemistry and biology are at their highest ever
  • more girls than ever before entered both maths and further maths this year

The EBacc subjects are: English, maths, 2 sciences, a humanity (history and geography), and languages.

The Russell Group of universities defines the facilitating subjects as: biology, chemistry, physics, maths, further maths, geography, history, English literature, and modern and classical languages.

Statistics: A level and other level 3 results in England: academic year 2012 to 2013 (provisional)

Statistics: 2013 GCSE and equivalent results including key stage 3 provisional

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