Six things we learned from today's exam entry figures
- Entries for "decoupled" AS levels are only down by a fifth
Pupils are continuing to take AS levels despite the government’s decision to start "decoupling" them from final A-level grades. The previous education secretary Michael Gove had hoped that the change would lead to linear courses without exams halfway through and a "revival of the art of deep thought". But today’s figures from Ofqual reveal that entries in the 13 subjects that have been decoupled are down on average by just 22 per cent.
The largest decrease in Year 12 entries in the reformed AS subjects was in English language and literature, where entries fell by 32 per cent. The smallest decrease was in computing, where entries decreased by 10 per cent. Across all AS levels, including unreformed subjects, entries were down by 14 per cent.
- Fewer pupils are taking their GCSEs early and more are retaking them after Year 11
Overall there has been a 13 per cent drop in the number of pupils in Year 10 and below taking GCSEs. Early entries have been falling since the government introduced a rule known as "first entry counts" in 2013, which means that a pupil’s first result from a GCSE exam is used for the school’s performance tables even if they later resit the paper and achieve a higher mark.
In GCSE English literature (excluding the IGCSE), entries of younger pupils fell by 98 per cent. But in about a third of subjects, there has actually been an increase in the number of younger entrants. These include business studies, with a 70 per cent rise in entrants in Year 10 and below, and PE, with a 67 per cent rise. Younger entrants in music, statistics, computing and religious studies went up by 42 per cent, 34 per cent, 33 per cent and 32 per cent respectively.
Meanwhile, the number of students taking GCSEs after Year 11 has risen by 26 per cent in the wake of government reforms that encourage pupils to retake English and maths if they do not gain a C or above. Post-Year 11 entries in GCSE maths have increased by 35 per cent.
- IGCSEs are still on the rise
The number of Year 11 pupils entered for IGCSE English language went up by just 2 per cent this year, following much more dramatic rises in previous years. The increase among post-Year 11 students was greater, at 33 per cent. But IGCSE maths entries rose by 46 per cent in 2016. Entries for this qualification among post-Year 11 pupils rose from 2,000 in 2015 to 4,000 this year. Entries are likely to fall from next year, when the qualifications will no longer count towards school performance tables.
- Separate sciences and computing are on the up
The number of Year 11 students entering GCSEs in each of the separate sciences in 2016 increased. Biology is up 5 per cent, chemistry is up 6 per cent and physics is up 5 per cent. This is in contrast to 2015, when there was an 8 per cent drop in entries from Year 11 students in each of the three separate GCSE sciences. Computing entries from Year 11 students rose 87 per cent. This continues a trend from 2015, when Year 11 entries increased by 110 per cent.
- French and German continue to slide
GCSE entries for Year 11 students decreased by 8 per cent in both French and German, but rose by 3 per cent in Spanish. IGCSE entries were up 16 per cent in French, 25 per cent in German and 24 per cent in Spanish. But these increases were from a far smaller base and were nowhere near enough to compensate for the GCSE languages decline.
- Several other subjects are falling out of fashion
Year 11 entries for GCSE humanities fell by 36 per cent this year. Other waning GCSE subjects include citizenship (down 26 per cent), ICT (down 28 per cent), and leisure and tourism (down 27 per cent).
At A level, critical thinking entries are down 50 per cent, general studies entries are down 35 per cent and entries in performing or expressive arts are down 15 per cent.