It’s been a rollercoaster few years for English A-level college students. The outcomes have been primarily based on exams till 2019; relied on an algorithm in 2020, which resulted in main controversy and a U-turn; then switched to trainer evaluation in 2021 after which again to exams for 2022.
Nonetheless, college students have come all the way down to earth with a bump after the federal government sought to rein in grade inflation. This yr’s grades have fallen sharply from 2021’s peak, although they aren’t as little as these from the final comparable examination yr, 2019.
However what else did we be taught from this yr’s outcomes?
1 Thoughts the hole
To reverse the cliche, a falling tide lowers all boats. This yr’s examination outcomes have been down in contrast with these from 2021, whatever the form of faculty a pupil attended, however everybody did higher than in 2019.
The exams lowered the hole between impartial college students and their state-school counterparts however didn’t shut it.
Nearly three in 5 personal, fee-paying college students (58%) achieved both an A* or an A, in contrast with 35% of these attending academies and 30.7% of these in state comprehensives. Whereas that could be a smaller hole than in 2021, it’s worse than in 2019.
2 The regional divide
Whereas the hole between areas just isn’t as stark because the hole between faculty varieties, disparities stay.
In each area grades dropped yr on yr, however they elevated in contrast with 2019. Nonetheless, whereas practically 40% of scholars sitting their exams within the south-east and London – the 2 most prosperous English areas – achieved A* or A grades this yr, the identical was true of simply 31% of these sitting exams within the north-east.
So whereas the hole between the north-east and London was barely lower than 4 proportion factors in 2019, it’s now 8.2 factors (the north-east/south-east hole grew from 5.3 factors to eight.7 factors over the identical interval).
3 Whither the English college students in England?
English is much less standard than it as soon as was in England. English literature, the preferred of the three English topics, has fallen outdoors the High 10 hottest topics for the primary time since its introduction in 2017 (geography additionally fell outdoors the High 10 in England this yr although throughout the UK it’s the tenth hottest topic).
Whereas the variety of college students taking English has fallen (19,814 fewer this yr in contrast with 2017) the quantity taking psychology has grown sharply (a rise of 18,858 from 2017 to current). Sociology has additionally grown in reputation; in 2017 it simply made the High 10, however it rocketed up the charts to grow to be the fifth hottest topic amongst A-level college students in England this yr.
Economics attracted greater than 35,000 college students in England in 2022, bringing it into the High 10 for the primary time.
4 Stem up, humanities down
The English phenomenon is a part of a broader development in the direction of science, know-how, engineering and arithmetic (Stem). The variety of college students taking Stem topics – biology, chemistry, computing, design and know-how, arithmetic, physics and “different sciences” – rose by 3.5% in contrast with in 2019.
Conversely, these selecting humanities topics – the three English A-levels, geography and historical past – dropped by 3.3% in the identical interval.
The rise is most notable in computing, with 43% extra college students taking this topic in contrast with 2019. And although computing nonetheless attracts fewer women than most Stem topics, in each absolute and proportional phrases, these numbers are rising. This yr, the variety of women sitting the examination hit 2,000 for the primary time, or 15.2% of the full.
5 Testing instances for ladies
The return to an exam-based marking system has favoured boys. Whereas girls and boys noticed their grades drop considerably, women fared worse when it comes to grade deflation. Throughout all topics in England, 44.3% of scholars achieved an A grade or above final yr; that fell again to 35.9% this yr, an 8.4 proportion level drop.
Nonetheless women’ grades fell additional, down by 9.5 proportion factors in contrast with seven amongst boys.
In contrast with 2019, the highest grades have elevated for each sexes. The proportion of women getting an A or above was 11.8 proportion factors greater in 2022 in contrast with 2019; for boys there was a 9.5 proportion level improve.