Overall, A-Level pass rates have stayed broadly the same
A*-A rates were down marginally from 25.9 per cent to 25.8 per cent of all entries.
A*-C rates increased slightly from 77.3 per cent to 77.6 per cent, while A*-E rates stayed unchanged, with 98.1 of all entrants achieving a pass.
A-Level entry numbers are down slightly on last year
Overall entry numbers were down 1.7 per cent – around 14,000 fewer entries.
The population of 18-year-olds is actually 3.1 per cent smaller this year than it was 12 months ago, however – so entries-per 18-year-old are actually up slightly.
This suggests that, while sixth forms are experiencing funding pressure, this hasn’t yet translated into students taking fewer A-Levels.
Interestingly, facilitating subjects dipped marginally as a proportion of all entries – from 52.1 per cent of all entries in 2015 to 51.1 per cent of entries this year.
Entry numbers for AS-Levels are down much more significantly
Overall, the number of AS-Level entries in England, Wales and Northern Ireland decreased by around 190,000, or 13.7 per cent, from 1,386,000 to 1,196,000.
This decline has been driven almost entirely – 185,000 of the drop-off – by what has happened in England, where, for the first tranche of subjects, AS-Levels have been decoupled from A-Levels. (The remaining subjects will be decoupled next year or the year after.)
This means that students’ AS-Level results will no longer count towards the A-Level results they will get next year.
It’s those subjects which decoupled this year that explain the decline in entries.
Art and design subjects saw a 33 per cent decline in entries, with other falls in entries including 24 per cent for history, 23 per cent for English (figures for language and literature are reported together), and 14 per cent for sociology.
Looking at a handful of subjects that haven’t decoupled, declines in entry numbers are much more modest – 10 per cent for French (entry rates for modern foreign languages have been in decline in general), and less than 2 per cent for both geography and maths.
The grade mix gives a few clues as to who is still doing AS-Levels in the decoupled subjects
One question we might ask is: who’s still doing AS-Levels in the subjects that have been decoupled already?
Looking at the same handful of AS-Level subjects as above, we can see that among the decoupled subjects, the proportion of students achieving either As, or A-C declined slightly from 2015 to 2016, or was flat.
Of the subjects that have not yet decoupled that we have looked at, the proportion of students achieving both these standards increased from 2015 to 2016.
While the effect is quite small, and the data we’re basing this on fairly limited, it suggests that it might be sixth forms with more able intakes that are choosing not to enter their students for AS-levels, or sixth forms are choosing not to enter their more able students for AS-Levels.