CaSE analysis of the 2016 A-level results.
Each year as A level results day comes around we try to take a helicopter view of uptake and success in STEM subjects across the country. This national picture fails to capture what is really a day of individual stories of delight, relief and for some disappointment.
Big Picture & Policy Change
The big picture for STEM is steady in terms of overall numbers and outcomes.
The national picture, although much less colourful than individual stories, is important as we look more broadly for indicators of inequality as well as where success and improvement is happening that can be learned from. It can also inform future policy development to improve outcomes for individuals and for the UK.
Unusually education policy is looking relatively stable when compared with the inevitable policy change that Brexit will bring across most other areas of government policy. And stability is much needed to allow teachers, schools, and all those involved in education to spend their time teaching, support and educating young people rather than getting up to speed with new requirements.
With the policy changes to A-levels filtering through in the next year, as well as Highers in Scotland, shifts in apprenticeship funding and the potential for international talent shifts in light of our changing relationship with the EU, the Government will need to be keeping a close eye on the skills big picture to ensure the UK skills base is in good health.
Those receiving their A level results today are the last to be taking modular A levels under the old system, with next year marking the first year of the new linear A levels in most subjects. As a result it is difficult to draw many conclusions from the AS level results this year.
Looking at A-levels, this year 40% of total A level entries were in STEM subjects. For girls, 35% of entries were in STEM subjects compared with 45% of entries for boys.
Chemistry joins Geography in boasting a 50:50 split this year – certainly for the first time since 2008 (where our numbers go back to) - seeing a small increase in the number of girls taking it from last year.
However, there is a stubbornness to gender split across many subjects. Psychology continue to join English and Art with boys making up only a quarter of entrants, but with more boys taking it this year than last despite an overall drop in the number of total A level entrants. At the other end of the spectrum Computing continues to gain in popularity as an A-level choice with number of entrants going up from 5000 last year to 6000 this year – with girls making up 10% of the cohort. The numbers are astonishingly low, however the girls that do choose to take Computing outshine the boys with 5.3% receiving A*s this year compared to 2.4% of the boys.