The Independent newspaper has recently reported alongside other major national broad-sheets that the number of secondary school A level 2018 students gaining pass grades has dropped to its lowest point in eight years. This is amid major exam reforms. For the second year students in England have received grades in reformed A levels, which have moved away from coursework and modules to final exams after two years.
The overall A level results for A* to E pass rate in the UK of all subjects fell to 97.6 per cent, compared to 97.9 per cent last year, the national figures published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) revealed.
For the second year running, boys outperformed girls at the top grades. This year, 26.6 per cent of exam entries for boys were awarded A* or A grades, compared to 26.2 per cent for girls.
Experts had predicted that the linear structure of the new qualifications in England – with less coursework and AS levels no longer counting towards the final A level grade – would favour boys.
The statistics also show that Chinese at A level is now more popular among sixth formers than German. The number of students opting to study German, French and Spanish fell by 7.9 per cent.
And Stem subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) are growing in popularity, with more than a third (36.2 per cent) of all A level entries in these subjects this year.
But there have been a number of drops in entries to humanities subjects – including geography which saw an 11.3 per cent fall in entries, the lowest level in four years.
As mentioned above these figures come in the wake of a major secondary schools exams overhaul, with 24 A-level subjects now reformed. AS levels are being phased out and A level syllabuses have been phased in across schools in England since September 2015.
The change was brought in by the then education secretary Michael Gove with the intention of making the exams more “fit for purpose” – in other words, harder.
Under the new system, students sit all A level exams at the end of two years of study, instead of taking modular exams throughout the course, as they had done in previous years.
AS-level results no longer count towards A-level grades and levels of coursework have been reduced, with most courses assessed entirely through exams.
Resits will still be available, but January exams have been scrapped, so students will have to wait until May/June of the following year for a chance to improve their grades.
In a nutshell AS levels are on the way out – in England at least. The AS-level has been decoupled from the A-level, which means it operates as a stand-alone qualification and the results do not count towards A-level grades – although in Wales and Northern Ireland, they will still count towards an overall A-level mark.
Since this decoupling, the number of entries for AS subjects has fallen dramatically.
Provisional figures from the Department for Education show that the number of entries for AS subjects fell by almost 60% from 659,880 in 2017 to 269,090 in 2018.
This continues the trend which was seen in 2016 and 2017.
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