CaSE analysis of this year’s A-level results.

On a day that leaves families up and down the UK on tenterhooks, we take the opportunity to cast a bird’s-eye view over STEM subjects.

What does the general picture look like?

Following the first year of partial A-level reforms in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the overall uptake and attainment of A-levels have remained stable. Among those subjects that have been reformed this year are Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Physics and Psychology. Of all STEM subjects, only ICT has seen a small drop in uptake from 2016, while the majority of STEM subjects have seen increases in popularity from last year, with maths continuing its reign as the most popular subject.

When compared with last year’s results, the overall popularity of STEM subjects has increased from 39.6% to 40.7% in 2017, meaning that for every five A-level subjects taken, at least two were STEM subjects.

As a result of the decoupling of AS and A-level qualifications in the reformed courses in England, the uptake of AS level subjects has fallen by 39% from 2016, mostly seen in England as was expected following the system changes. In Northern Ireland and Wales, AS levels remain an integral part of A-level qualifications.

In addtion to these changes, newly reformed science A-levels now contain a practical endorsement, sitting seperately from A-levels and no longer contributing to overall grades. The practical endorsements are simply pass/fail, and the overall pass rate across science subjects was 98.2%

The Gender balance in STEM

In line with historic trends of STEM A-level uptake, boys made up a higher proportion of STEM students. 47% of qualifications studied by boys were STEM subjects, while 36% of A-level entries for girls were in STEM subjects.

The proportion of girls studying Chemistry has continued to rise from last year, and the number of girls taking Chemistry has surpassed that of boys for the first time in over a decade.

Despite this small change, the proportion of boys and girls in other subjects has remained stable from last year. Computing and Physics still suffer from chronic under representation from girls, while subjects such as Psychology and Art are dominated by girls. These statistics surrounding Computing are particularly disappointing considering the uptake of the subject is up 33% from last year.

To read comments from Sarah Main, our Executive Director, click here.

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