English A-level is set for its biggest drop in students in 20 years as headteachers call for an inquiry into whether GCSE reforms are killing the subject.
The number of students taking the subject has plummeted by 13 per cent since last year, according to provisional data published by the exams watchdog Ofqual.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, described it as “alarming” and urged ministers to take “urgent action”.
English remains one of the most popular A-level subjects, but the drop from 67,865 to 58,870 is the most drastic year-on-year fall since 2000, when the Joint Council for Qualification’s (JCQ) records began.
Mr Barton said the new, more rigorous English GCSEs, which were introduced three years ago, are to blame for putting students off the subject.
“It is right that we should have the highest aspirations for all our students, but this should not equate to turning exams into a joyless slog,” Mr Barton said.
“We are concerned that the current GCSE specifications are failing to encourage a love of English in young people and this year’s entries at A-level appear to confirm our fears.”
In the reformed English Language and English Literature GCSEs, coursework has been axed and content has been “toughened up” in a bid to raise standards.