Tories criticise government record on GCSEs

By Liz Stephens

Days before the publication of GCSE results, the Conservative party has launched a scathing attack on the governments’ record on education.

The Tories claim that, although GCSE results are going up, less than a quarter of pupils gain passes in all the traditional subjects of English, maths, science and a foreign language.

The numbers achieving passes in all four traditional subjects have dropped from over 30 per cent to 23 per cent in the last seven years.

The party claims rising GCSE grades mask a lack of “basic skills” as pupils are pushed into taking ‘soft’ subjects to inflate schools’ positions in league tables.

Nick Gibb, the shadow schools minister, said: “The fact that the number of children attaining these GCSEs has fallen year on year since 2001 is a terrible indictment of the government’s record.”

“The environment children face upon leaving education has never been so competitive, which makes it even more important to reverse this trend,” he added.

Earlier in the year, the Tories announced plans to overhaul official league tables – giving schools more points for entering large numbers of pupils for traditional academic subjects.

But the government said the results were caused mainly by the number of teenagers deserting foreign languages, rather than basic subjects like English and maths.

Languages were made optional for 14-year-olds in 2004, leading to a dramatic fall in the number of pupils studying French and German.

Schools minister Iain Wright said: “This says nothing about rising standards in the essential basics of reading, writing and maths.

“It’s misleading to use this combination of subjects as a benchmark of success for all pupils as many choose not to study a foreign language.”

Contrary to expectations, last Thursday’s A-level results showed a strong return to traditional subjects such as maths and physics.