Changes to the system but national results remain stable

Provisional results for this year’s A level and AS qualifications have been published today by the Joint Council for QualificationsCIC.

Results remain relatively stable at a national level, with the proportion of A* grades awarded rising 0.6 percentage points to 8.2 per cent of all awards. There is a slight dip at A*-A of 0.3 percentage points to 26.0 per cent and at A*-B of 0.5 percentage points to 52.4 per cent.

These are the first set of results since A level and AS qualifications effectively became linear through the complete removal of the January series in England and its removal for AS in Wales and Northern Ireland (see point 5 in Notes to Editors). The changes could lead to variations within schools and colleges, depending on how they previously entered students for examinations. For example, if they traditionally used the January series for resits they may see greater volatility than schools who usually entered students in a linear fashion.

Nottingham High School pupils and staff celebrate a great set of results for the school
Nottingham High School pupils and staff celebrate a great set of results for the school

Students are increasingly choosing Facilitating Subjects, with entries rising in Biology, Chemistry and Physics by 2.0 per cent (combined); Mathematics 0.9 per cent; and Further Maths 1.5 per cent. English entries are down 4.6 per cent but greater decreases can be seen in non-Facilitating Subjects such as General Studies (down 24.3 per cent) and Political Studies (down 10.6 per cent).

Although French, German and Spanish all had fewer entries than last year (down 7.4, 0.1, and 0.6 per cent respectively), as a proportion of all UK entries there is stability. The proportion of candidates awarded A* in these modern foreign languages increased (0.1 percentage point in French, 0.7 percentage point in German; and 1 percentage point in Spanish).

Results for other Facilitating Subjects also remain relatively unchanged, with the majority increasing at A* but declining marginally at A*-A. For example, in Biology the percentage of awards receiving an A* increased 1.4 percentage points to 9.4 per cent, but at A*-A declined 0.8 percentage points to 27.5 per cent. There are several factors that could possibly be contributing to this pattern in results, such as teachers adopting new strategies in response to the removal of the January series; a slight shift towards Facilitating Subjects affecting outcomes at grade A; and as the A* continues to bed in it becomes more important for highly selective universities and as such provides a greater incentive for students.

AS

Results for AS qualifications remain stable with a 0.1 percentage point increase at A to 19.9 per cent and a 0.5 percentage point increase at A*-E to 88.8 per cent. The overall increases in AS entries may be due in part to there being no resit opportunity in January; however, the data does point to the EBacc, a GCSE performance measure introduced in 2010, having an impact on post 16 subject choices with increases in Geography, Spanish and History.

Extended Project

The Extended Project continues to be popular with students and universities with a significant increase in entries of 9.4 per cent from 2013. This builds on a 6.4 per cent increase in that year.

Commenting on the results, Michael Turner, Director General of the Joint Council for QualificationsCIC said:

“Although the system has undergone change, this year’s national results are very stable. As ever, students and teachers across the country have worked hard to achieve them and should be congratulated for their efforts and the fruits of their labours.

“It is possible that due to the removal of the January series some schools and colleges may experience volatility in their results, depending on how they have adapted to the changes. But it is important to remember that standards have been maintained and, despite the changes, are comparable with previous years.

“The increase in the number of students taking Spanish and some other EBacc subjects at AS will be welcomed by many and it will be interesting to see if these rises follow through to next year’s A levels.”

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