Pupils 'picking easy GCSEs' for better results

GCSE pupils in the East End are shunning core subjects like history, geography and languages often favoured by universities and employers for softer alternatives.

Last summer, just six per cent of Tower Hamlets year 11 pupils achieved good grades in the six traditional subjects - English, maths, two sciences, a language and history or geography - league tables released by the Department for Education show.

The borough’s results lagged behind the national average of 17 per cent and made up one of the lowest figures in England.

Tory ministers are arguing that the combination of subjects, known as the English baccalaureate, give students the best chance of going on to good universities and say they are preferred by top institutions and employers.

But Tower Hamlets Council has argued the new grading was only officially introduced in 2010 and, as GCSEs run over two years, it will take time for more teenagers to start gaining the expected grades.

The numbers of students taking the Ebacc are expected to rise next year but this will only happen if schools decide to push them into more traditional choices.

Only schools themselves can decide whether the Ebacc should become compulsory, the council said.

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GCSE results as a whole reached an all time high in Tower Hamlets last year, smashing the national average for the first time ever.

Pupils’ performance in the core subjects of English and maths were strong, with just over 60 per cent achieving five or more A* to C grades, including the two subjects.

Tower Hamlets Council said GCSE results have “improved enormously” in the last decade.

A spokeswoman added: “While we have high levels of performance in English, maths and the sciences, fewer pupils have historically opted to study history/geography or languages.

“Our schools are reviewing their curriculum offer to ensure that students are entered for the EBacc combination.”