Royal Society comments on A Level results

18 August 2011

The Royal Society has welcomed increases in numbers of students taking science and maths A Levels, but hopes for greater increases in future and expresses concern at declining numbers studying Computing A levels.

Professor Dame Athene Donald FRS, Chair of the Royal Society's Education Committee, commented: "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.
The Royal Society’s State of the Nation report, published earlier this year, highlighted that the numbers of students taking mainstream science and mathematics A Levels combinations needs to increase significantly and advocated reform of the education system to achieve this.  In addition, the Royal Society report identified the need for more specialist teachers who can inspire more pupils to become the scientists and mathematicians we need to meet the needs of the business sector, safeguarding our future prosperity, as well as becoming the specialist teachers of the future.”

Professor Steve Furber FRS, Chair of the Royal Society Computing in Schools study, added:
“This is the eighth successive year that we have seen declines in numbers of students taking Computing A Levels, a situation that is causing great consternation not only throughout the academic community, but also within commerce and industry.  The diminishing enthusiasm for Computing as a school subject contrasts starkly with the ever-increasing importance of computers in all areas of life including business, government, home and entertainment, and threatens the UK’s ability to meet the workforce requirements of the knowledge economy, both now and in the future.  Concern is so great that the Royal Society is leading a study to investigate the downward spiral, in collaboration with teachers, universities, learned societies, industry and others.  We expect to recommend fundamentally reforming some parts of our education system when we release our report at the end of this year.”