Ministers have welcomed the continuing revival of the science and maths A levels and effectively claimed credit for the end of grade inflation.
The three main sciences, “other sciences”, maths and further maths all finished in the top ten biggest increases in A-level entries it was announced this morning.
Education minister, Elizabeth Truss, described the news as “extremely encouraging”. “These subjects are not just fascinating and worth studying for their own sake – they are also the ones which open up modern, high-tech careers and are most in demand by employers and universities,” she said.
The minister also attacked Labour for pledging to reverse the coalition’s A level reforms. They are due to be introduced in 2015, but as TES revealed earlier this week many top independent schools are already planning to ditch the new exams.
Ms Truss’s Conservative party statement includes a note highlighting the extent of A level “grade inflation” under Labour, on the day that the proportion of top grades fell for the second consecutive summer.
It comes despite the continuing insistence from exams regulator, Ofqual – understood to be responsible for the inflation clampdown – that “there is no political influence over the awarding process for GCSEs and A levels”.
The Association of School and College Leaders earlier welcomed “a good set of results”. But not all schools are so happy about the small drop in the proportion of A and A* grades.
Kevin Stannard, Girls’ Day School Trust director of innovation and learning, said: “We are concerned to see that, nationally, there has been a fall in the top grades once again, suggesting that the exam boards have introduced measures to control these. “Examinations should hold no surprises their role is to validate candidates' ability and hard work. A pupil’s results should not depend on which year they sat the exam in, which subjects they studied, and which exam board’s syllabus they followed.
“Unfortunately, in the last few years, uncertainty has increased, and with it unfairness to individual candidates. It is not particularly surprising that schools have started to look elsewhere for fairer and more consistent qualifications.”
The increasing popularity in science and maths subjects follows a sustained campaign from universities, industry and subject associations to persuade pupils of the benefits of studying for such A levels.
Mark Dawe, chief executive of the OCR exam board, said: “Students are becoming more and more savvy about choices they need to make at A level for the career they want.
“The universities are being very transparent about what they expect - it's not just the grades, it's the type of subject they expect students to take, it's employers saying ‘this is the degree we're looking at’.”
Stephen Twigg, shadow education secretary, said that “the continued rise in maths and science entries” had begun under Labour.