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Courses could be ditched in major examination shake-up

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Dozens of GCSEs, AS and A-levels are set to be ditched in the latest stage of a major shake-up of exams.

Courses in subjects such as home economics, performing arts, environmental science, catering and human biology are among those facing the axe. But others, such as ancient history, film studies, law and media studies, could become tougher qualifications.

The proposals are in a new consultation document by England’s exams regulator Ofqual. GCSEs, AS and A-levels in traditional subjects such as English, maths, humanities, science and foreign languages are already being revised. Under the latest proposals, the number of GCSEs, AS and A-level qualifications available to students is likely to be cut.

Many of those expected to be axed are in subjects which are similar to, or overlap other courses, according to Ofqual’s consultation paper.

It says that compared with many other countries, England has an “exceptional range” of GCSE, AS and A-level subjects. The number of entries for these range from 100 in 2013 – for a GCSE in manufacturing, to 942,400 entries for GCSE maths. “There are different views about the appropriateness of the range and variety of GCSE, AS and A-level subjects, and some of the more unusual subjects concern us from a standards perspective,” the consultation says.

“In England we have a large range of subjects and a variety of qualifications with different titles and some overlap (for example, biology and human biology). This can be confusing, and it makes standards difficult to maintain.”

Among the GCSE courses Ofqual is proposing to discontinue are home economics – a qualification awarded to 32,000 students in 2012 – and catering – awarded to 20,900 people – which are similar to the new design and technology GCSE in food technology. Performing arts at GCSE, which was awarded to 4,400 students in 2012, is seen as overlapping with exams in dance and drama and is also set to be axed.

Ofqual chief regulator Glenys Stacey said: “We think it important that subject content is reviewed and updated as qualifications change, and we set out proposals for how we think that is best done for the remaining subjects.

“At the same time, there are subjects which we think would not meet the principles we have put forward.”

 

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