PLANS to axe 'soft' GCSEs and A-levels could deter creative students according to headteachers.

Ofqual, the exams watchdog, said subjects such as home economics and performing arts will be scrapped while media studies and ICT will be dramatically toughened up.

The qualifications watchdog has published a list of dozens of ‘unusual’ courses that will be scrapped within three years because of concerns they lack academic rigour.

The Association of School and College Leaders criticised it as removing some of the currently most popular qualifications.

Subjects identified include performing arts, applied science, human biology and environmental studies.

Headteachers in East Lancashire said pupils needed a range of interests to draw from.

Mark Jackson, head at Haslingden High, said there should be a high standard, equal to GCSEs in tougher subjects, but said the range of choice should stay.

He said: “It’s true that some subjects are harder and that grades are more set to how many might pass rather than who meets a set standard.

“I think it would be better to create a higher standard and some parity across the different subjects.

“However I wouldn’t like to see creative and practical courses abolished without real thought given to the choices still remaining to the children, particularly at GCSE level. ”

Rhyddings headteacher Paul Trickett added: “Children are different and they want a broad range of subjects to choose from. I would be against anything that restricts our curriculum any further than recent changes just made. Ofsted still judges us on the curriculum a school offers - there shouldn’t be anything to prevent them choosing subjects needed for their students.”

Ofqual has said some choice is due to similarity with other courses such as performing arts overlapping dance or drama GCSEs.

Other GCSEs to be axed are digital communication, expressive arts, electronics, manufacturing, engineering, environmental science and physiology.

The most popular A-level to be scrapped is film studies – taken by almost 7,000 students in 2012 – because it is too similar to a separate exam in drama and theatre studies.

Some 73 other qualifications are identified as requiring significant reform.