Schools are facing challenge over key subjects

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PLANS TO require all teenagers to take traditional academic subjects at GCSE will be a “significant challenge” for some schools, Nick Gibb is to say.

The move is intended to prepare pupils for the future and ministers “make no apology” for expecting that every youngster gets a high-quality core academic education, according to the Schools Minister.

In a speech to the Policy Exchange think-tank tonight, Mr Gibb is expected to say the Government will listen to the views of teachers, parents and school leaders before introducing the changes.

He will insist that schools will be given time to prepare for any major alterations, a decision that is likely to please school leaders who raised concerns about the pace of education reforms under the last coalition government.

The minister will also say he recognises that a national curriculum involves “trade-offs” as some subjects are included and others left out, and reveal he has been asked by campaign groups to add many topics to the curriculum - from Esperanto to den building.

The Conservatives outlined plans in their election manifesto to require all secondary school pupils in England to take GCSEs in English, maths, science, history or geography and a foreign language - the subjects that make up the English Baccalaureate - a performance measure that recognises the percentage of pupils in each school that gain at least a C grade in each of these five areas.

Under the Tories’ proposals, schools that refuse to teach these subjects could not be rated as outstanding by Ofsted.

It is understood that the Government will publish more details of the plans shortly. It is not yet known whether this will require a change in legislation, but if the watchdog plays a role it is likely to involve a change to the inspection system.

Mr Gibb will tell the audience that the Government is taking further steps to “restore academic subjects to the heart of the curriculum”, including reforming GCSEs and A-levels, increasing the use and availability of high-quality textbooks and improving maths standards.

“In due course, we will also set out details of our expectation that secondary school pupils should take English Baccalaureate subjects at age 16,” the minister says.

“In doing so, we will listen closely to the views of teachers, headteachers and parents on how best to implement this commitment. And we will ensure that schools have adequate lead-in time to prepare for any major changes.

“For some schools already leading the way, such as King Solomon Academy and Rushey Mead School, this change will pass by unnoticed. But for others, where only a small minority currently achieve the EBacc, there is no doubt that this will be a significant challenge.

“We will support these schools to raise standards, but make no apology for expecting every child to receive a high-quality core academic education.”

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said the union agreed that pupils should get a broad academic grounding, adding that it is “very much looking forward to taking up the minister’s offer to work with him on implementing the proposals”.