A-level pass rates rise again

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A-level passes have risen for the 29th year in a row as teenagers battle for university places. Those who miss out on a place this year could face tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year.

For the first time in 14 years there has been no increase in the total proportion getting A or A* grades. Just over 27% of entries scored these grades, with a small rise in the proportion awarded A*.

Overall, the A-level pass rate rose slightly from 97.6% to 97.8%.

The results show boys have closed the gap with girls at the very top grade of A* and that more teenagers are opting to do science and maths.

Entries for maths (and further maths) rose by 7.4%, while there were also increases for biology (7.2%), chemistry (9.2%) and physics (6.1%).

Professor Dame Athene Donald, Chair of the Royal Society Education Committee, said: “We are pleased to see both the Government and the students themselves recognising the benefit of taking science and maths A Levels to enhance their chances of attaining university places and long-term employment.  Whilst it is encouraging to see the numbers of students taking science and mathematics A Levels increasing, the numbers are still far too low to meet the needs of both business and education.

"We believe an overhaul of A levels may be needed to enable students to study a greater breadth of subjects, including science and maths, such as occurs with Scottish Highers. In Scotland it is noticeable that the numbers studying these subjects is much higher than the English equivalent, providing a healthier base for students going on to study science and maths at university."

Schools Minister Nick Gibb praised teenagers for their hard work. He said: "We should congratulate the quarter of a million young people who have succeeded in getting an A-level grade or more than one A-level grade.

"It's a real contrast to appalling films we saw of a tiny minority of young people causing mayhem in our cities. I hope these pictures [of A-level students] are broadcast worldwide because these represent the true picture of British youth."

Meanwhile, Education Secretary Michael Gove has ordered a review of A-levels to see how they compare with exam systems in other countries.

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