SCHOOLS could be forced to squeeze valuable subjects out of the curriculum as a result of changes to government league tables, according to Stalybridge and Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds.
The government has recently published annual data on the GCSE results achieved by 15-year-olds in schools across the country.
In the past, schools were ranked according to the proportion of youngsters who achieved five or more A*-C grades at GCSE (often including maths and English).
But this year the government has included additional data, enabling schools to be ranked according to the proportion of youngsters achieving the so-called ‘English Baccalaureate'.
In order to pass the ‘English Baccalaureate', students have to achieve A*-C grades in maths and English, as well as having at least one science subject, a foreign or ancient language and a social science.
But when students chose their GCSE subjects - two years before their exams - they and their teachers had no idea they would be judged on this criteria.
Stalybridge and Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds believes the inclusion of this data gives a "misleading picture of achievement" in secondary schools.
"For the first time this year the information published by the government includes data on students who have achieved the so-called ‘English Baccalaureate'," said Mr Reynolds.
"To pass the Baccalaureate students have to achieve an A*-C grade in GCSE maths and English, as well as at least one science subject, a foreign or ancient language and a social science.
"But judging pupils by criteria that did not even exist when they took their exams does no more than create an artificially low baseline for league tables in the future.
"According to this measure, high-achieving students who happen not to have chosen this arbitrary group of subjects actually count against their school's achievement.
"And clearly, any measure that disregards the achievements of high-achieving students in this way is misleading and unfair."
Mr Reynolds also believes the new measure is actually "a politically driven attempt to dictate what is taught in classrooms nationwide",
And he fears that valuable subjects not included in the Baccalaureate - such as citizenship - could be squeezed out of the curriculum.
"The ‘English Baccalaureate' data is as much a random reflection of the subjects taken by students than of academic performance," said Mr Reynolds.
"And I believe the publication of this new benchmark by the government is an attempt to dictate what is taught in classrooms nationwide.
"As a result of the changes to the published data, I am sure pupils and their schools will make changes to GCSE options they offer.
"Schools will have to make sure that all high-achieving pupils are eligible for the Baccalaureate, so their results don't count against them in the league tables.
"In some cases that may mean individual students are no longer offered the subjects that interest them or are most appropriate to their academic aspirations.
"And in some schools it could lead to the decline of valuable subjects like citizenship, simply because they are not included in the Baccalaureate."
Since he was elected as MP for Stalybridge and Hyde Jonathan Reynolds has taken part in a number of citizenship classes in schools across the constituency.
He believes the subject - in addition to enabling the development of academic skills - equips young people with an unrivalled understanding of the way society works and gives them the information they need to access democratic institutions during their time at school and later in life. And he believes citizenship is a valuable part of the curriculum.
Mr Reynolds is currently seeking a Parliamentary debate into the teaching of citizenship in schools. And he would be interested in hearing from teachers, pupils and parents who want to share their experience of the subject.
He can best be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Published January 31, 2011