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GCSE reforms: Every pupil must study five core subjects and examiners make it harder to get top grades

Every secondary school pupil will have to study the five core academic subjects of English, maths, science, languages and geography or history up to GCSE level as a result of radical reforms.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan will insist that all pupils study the English Baccalaureate subjects up until the age of 16.  At present, only 39 per cent do – itself up from 22 per cent when the EBacc measure was first introduced in 2010 by her predecessor Michael Gove.

Teachers’ leaders will argue the plan is too prescriptive – and that not every pupil is suited to such a demanding academic diet.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said last night that Ms Morgan had reversed the previous government policy of allowing schools to decide which pupils to put in for the EBacc “with just one speech” and “without the least consultation”.

She said the new policy would “cause dismay amongst parents”, adding: “Parents, like teachers want a broad and balanced curriculum for their children”.

However, Ms Morgan will say this afternoon that her plans are a key element of the Government’s commitment to social justice. “We want every single person in the country to have access to the best opportunities Britain has to offer – starting with an excellent education,” she said.

She will also announce plans to make it harder to get a top grade GCSE pass – as the system switches from the current A* to G grade passes to a new nine to one grading scale.  Grade five on the new scale will be considered a top grade pass – the equivalent of a low B or high C under the present system.

This, she argues, will make GCSEs equivalent to the standards of exams in top performing countries such as Finland, Canada, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

In addition, she will announce the appointment of school behavioural expert Tom Bennett to draw up plans for training teachers how to tackle low-level disruption in the classroom – which, education standards watchdog Ofsted estimates, is losing pupils up to an hour of learning a day.

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The inspectorate found that children were having a significant impact on the learning of others by swinging on chairs, playing on mobile phones, making silly comments to get attention and passing notes around in class.


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