Maths has overtaken English for the first time in more than a decade to become the most popular A-level taken this year.
English has clung on to top spot ever since the Curriculum 2000 reforms were introduced, and back in 2005 almost 33,000 more students sat the subject than the number of candidates who took maths.
But maths has steadily grown in popularity, from 52,788 entries in 2004 to 88,816 this year. Despite an overall drop in A-level entries since 2013, the subject bucked the trend by recording a small rise of 0.86 percentage points.
In contrast, more than 4,100 fewer candidates sat English, amounting to a drop of 4.6 percentage points.
The growth in maths, as well as science subjects, was welcomed by John Cridland, director general of the CBI business lobbying organisation.
“Growth and jobs in the future will depend on closing our yawning skills gap and the UK having a workforce that can exploit new technologies, so it’s great to see entries up in the sciences, and maths now the number one A-level choice, reflecting our call for more students to study maths up to 18,” he said.
“Highly skilled workers are essential for our growth sectors so these qualifications carry a real premium with employers. It will be those young people with science and maths qualifications who go on to become engineers and new tech entrepreneurs in the future.”
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said heads have been keen to encourage more young people to study maths to A-level.
“We’ve worked hard, and school leaders have worked really hard, to encourage people to take up maths,” he said. “What we’re seeing is a big increase in the uptake, and very good results at the end of it.”
More students sitting maths achieved an A* grade – 17.3 per cent – than in any other subject, apart from further maths, in which more than a quarter (26.5 per cent) of entries were awarded the top grade. In media, film and TV studies qualifications, just 1.4 per cent of candidates obtained an A*.
Top 10 most popular A-levels in 2014
1. Maths 88,816
2. English 85,336
3. Biology 64,070
4. Psychology 54,818
5. Chemistry 53,513
6. History 52,131
7. Art and design 44,922
8. Physics 36,701
9. Geography 33,007
10. Sociology 30,594
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