A-level results: Stem entries on the rise

Maths A-level entries were up this year, although the proportion of students achieving an A* in the subject has fallen

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Entries for science, technology and maths A levels have continued to increase.

This year entries for subjects classed as Stem by the Joint Council for Qualifications, which represents exam boards, accounted for 36.2 per cent of all UK A-level entries. In 2017 the figure stood at 34.5 per cent.

The A levels classed as Stem by JCQ are biology, chemistry, physics, design and technology, maths, further maths, computing and "other sciences".

Maths remained the most popular A level this year, attracting 97,627 entries in 2018 – a 2.5 per cent increase on last year. 

The vast majority of these entries were for the "legacy" A level, though a small group of 17-year-old students took the reformed qualification in one year this summer.

While results for most grades in maths were relatively stable this year, the proportion of students achieving an A* dropped by 2 per cent, from 17.9 per cent in 2017 to 15.9 per cent this year.

The JCQ said this reflected a less able cohort at the top end this year, based on analysis of their prior attainment at key stage 2.

Entries in all three sciences were up this year – biology increased by 3.1 per cent, and chemistry and physics both increased by 3.4 per cent.

The biggest proportional increase was in computing, where entries rocketed by 23.9 per cent. Although this offset a 25 per cent fall in the (non-Stem classified) ICT.

Closing the gender gap in Stem

However, not all Stem subjects experienced a rise. In design and technology – a subject for which schools have struggled to recruit teachers – entries fell by 7.8 per cent.

Male students continue to be more likely to take Stem subjects, accounting for 55.9 per cent of entries.

There are, however, signs that the balance is beginning to shift. Female students represented the majority of entries in biology and chemistry, and they have closed the gap on male students in maths and physics.

For example, female entries for maths rose by 3.1 per cent this year, compared with 2.1 per cent for males. In physics female entries rose by 6.9 per cent, while male entries rose only 2.4 per cent.  

Michael Turner, director general of the JCQ, said: “The rise in Stem subjects will be welcomed by many, including employers, who have been calling for more people to have the knowledge and skills developed by taking these qualifications.

“That we are moving, albeit slowly, towards greater gender equilibrium in entries and results in Stem should also be welcomed and encouraged.”

 

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