A and A* grades fall for fifth year running: 7 main points from A-level results day 2016

As schools receive their long-awaited results, here are the main national stories

Kaye Wiggins

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Top A-level grades are down for the fifth year running

Across the UK, 25.8 per cent of all A-level entries grades received an A or A* grade, down slightly from 25.9 per cent last year. It is the fifth consecutive year in which the figure has fallen, in the wake of the introduction of measures to control the so-called “grade inflation” of previous years by pegging A-level results to pupils’ GCSE scores nationally.  

The overall A-level pass rate is unchanged

In total, 98.1 per cent of all entries received a pass grade of A* to E, the same proportion as in 2015.

The A* gender gap is closing

Boys have received a larger share of A* grades than girls at A-level every year since 2012 and have extended their lead every year in that period, until now. This year the gender gap at A* has fallen from 0.9 percentage points to 0.8 percentage points as the drop in top grades fell faster for boys than girls.



When A and A* grades are combined, girls outperform boys, but this year, their lead has shrunk to just 0.3 percentage points, its lowest level for at least a decade.

Language entries are down again

The number of pupils taking A-level French fell by 6.4 per cent, with entries in German and Spanish falling by 4.2 per cent and 2.7 per cent respectively. The decreases outstrip a 1.7 per cent overall drop in A-level entries, linked to a dip in the number of 18-year-olds in the population this year.

Top AS-level grades are up

This year 21.3 per cent of all AS-level grades in the UK were an A, up by 1.1 percentage points from 20.2 per cent in 2015. The rise comes as new “decoupled” AS-levels, which do not count towards the final A-level grade, were introduced for the first time in 13 subjects in England.

AS-level entries are down – but some subjects are down more than others

The overall number of AS-level entries in England fell by 14.3 per cent. But TES analysis of the combined entry for the 13 decoupled subjects – where, for the first time, an AS-level no longer counts towards the A-level grade – shows that it fell by 20 per cent compared to last year.

There was wide variation between these subjects. Among 17-year-olds in England, when resits were excluded, entries for sociology fell by 16.2 per cent, while entries in art and design fell 38.4 per cent.

Northern Ireland is bucking the trend

The proportion of A and A* grades rose in Northern Ireland, from 29.3 per cent to 29.5 per cent. By contrast, it fell in England from 25.9 per cent to 25.8 per cent and in Wales from 23.1 per cent to 22.7 per cent.  

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Kaye Wiggins

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