Responding to the publication of A level results today, Professor Ulrike Tillmann, chair of the Royal Society Education Committee, said:
“The Royal Society would like to congratulate all those receiving A level results today. We hope they reflect the hard work pupils have put in over the last two years, with the support of parents and teachers, and the extra effort to adapt to the unprecedented disruption of the last six months.
“Acknowledging that some pupils may feel disappointed and will want to take advantage of resits or appeals, it is gratifying to see a rise in the proportion of pupils achieving the top grades in science A levels. In Physics, which saw the largest increases, 10.5% of students achieved an A* compared to 8.7% in 2019. The popularity of Mathematics continues to rise, now accounting for 12.1% of all A level entries. This is a welcome sign that pupils recognise how many careers will benefit from strong maths skills and 41.9% of pupils received A* to A grades, an increase on 2019 and overall passes increased as well. ‘When combined with the significant 11% rise in pupils taking Computing A level, there are pleasing signs for the UK and many employers who are crying out for these crucial skills.
“However, we continue to see unacceptably low numbers of female pupils choosing many of these subjects at A level. Where there is progress in the right direction it is slow. Girls make up 24% of entries in Physics this year, and just 14.5% of Computing entries - up from 13.2% in 2019. The Royal Society continues to see diversity in Computing as a priority and will keep working to encourage more girls and other underrepresented groups into the subject.
“While the picture for STEM subjects is broadly stable, despite significant uncertainty, it is concerning to see a continued decline in some arts and humanities subjects. The Society wants to understand the reasons why fewer pupils are making these choices. It has also called for a review to ensure pupils have a broad education that equips them with both knowledge and understanding, and the creative and interpersonal skills that are essential to 21st century life.
“Where pupils have been left disappointed and anxious, we hope that schools, colleges, universities and employers will work with them to ensure they are not unfairly prevented from continuing onto the next chapter of their education or work. It will be important to look in detail at any regional variation, and the breakdown by disability, ethnicity, and socioeconomic groups to ensure inequalities are not growing - and to invest in additional support as needed. Finally, It will be important to learn from this year’s experiences so that we are fully prepared for disruption on this scale in future.”