A-level results: English and maths entries decline

Figures likely to fuel criticism of Michael Gove's 'joyless' English GCSE reforms which have been blamed for the A-level decline

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Today’s results have revealed that the number of English and maths A-level entries has gone down, with falling entries in English representing a long-term decline.

In maths, the number of entries has fallen by 5,733, representing a fall of 5.9 per cent since last year, while in English, overall entries across the three A-level courses – in English language, English language and literature, and English literature – have fallen by 8,880, or 12.3 per cent since last year.


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This follows reports in May based on exam regulator Ofqual’s provisional data, which showed a decline in the number of pupils taking A-level English and a rise in entries in single science subjects.

On Saturday, Professor Alan Smithers of the University of Buckingham suggested that smaller cohorts in A-level maths and English were caused by lower-ability candidates who would have “selected themselves out” after finding the revised GCSEs too challenging.

Meanwhile, subject associations have blamed the “formulaic” nature of the revised GCSE English curriculum for putting students off from taking the subject further through study at A level.

Peter Thomas, chair of the National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE), said the new courses in GCSE English language and literature represented a “weaker curriculum.”

A-level English language has seen a particular decline in entries, falling by nearly 4,000, or 21.8 per cent.

In English literature, the largest A level of the three, entries are down by 7.8 per cent.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has recently called for action to halt the decline in A-level English entries, blaming “joyless” content at GCSE.

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