DfE abolishes general studies A-level

A DfE spokesperson said: “It has not been possible to draft content for AS- and A-level general studies and critical thinking to meet the requirements of reformed AS-levels and A-levels.”

“As a result, they will not be available for teaching in 2017.”

Many students sit the exam with relatively little formal teaching and there has long been suggestion that it is less valuable than other subjects. This was fuelled in part by many Russell Group universities accepting it only as an extra on top of other A-levels.

Free-schools charity the New Schools Network (NSN) revealed research that suggested the top 500 state schools accounted for almost 90 per cent of entries to general studies and critical thinking. NSN director Nick Timothy claimed schools were using the A-levels to ‘inflate’ their scores and were failing to provide ‘quality and rigour’.

In contrast, other research has found the qualification is harder than it has been given credit for. Analysis published by Durham University has found general studies to be the subject in which pupils were least likely to achieve high grades.

However, general studies has been in decline over the past decade, with A-level entries falling by 12 per cent to 40,984 in 2011. The fall in entries prompted Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), to say that the subject had 'probably had its day'. Since then entries have dropped a further 56 per cent, with just 18,092 this summer.

An aspect likely to have aggravated the fall in figures is the rapid rise in popularity of the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), which can either involve a 5,000 word dissertation, a report with findings from an investigation or study, or a short film or piece of music.

In 2010, former ASCL general secretary, John Dunford said: “The extended project develops a wider range of skills in a way that general studies doesn’t.

“I think general studies was a good thing in its day but we are moving on.”

In 2011 there was a 51 per cent rise in entries for the EPQ which has since climbed to 33,564.

Chris Healey, head teacher of Balcarras School in Cheltenham, said his sixth-formers favoured the EPQ.

He said: “General studies is passing without being mourned very much.”

Read more