By Martin Hodge, Professional Officer (Policy & Research Services)
The Joint Council for Qualifications has today published the 2018 national results for AS and A levels in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Voice is pleased to send our warmest congratulations to all those who have been involved in the examination process, including teachers and classroom assistants, and especially the students themselves.
We must make every effort to celebrate the achievements of the students, teachers and headteachers who have laboured with reformed curricula with their renewed focus on content and a change to terminal assessment in the form of final exams rather than coursework-based assessment. This has meant a change in the teaching and learning for most subjects, including those such as PE which have typically had a more practical base.
There has been and continues to be wide variation in subject uptake, with entries in so-called ‘Facilitating Subjects’ increasing from 50.2% of all entries in 2014 to 52.5% in 2018.
Similarly, entries in STEM subjects have increased by 8% over the past decade and entries in Computing are up 23.9%.
The gender gap for these subjects continues to close, with 2 in 7 entries from females in STEM subjects. Although STEM subjects are more likely to be taken by males, female entries are increasing, and in Design and Technology and Physics, females perform better than their male counterparts, despite being heavily outnumbered.
Conversely, entries for French, German and Spanish fell collectively by 7.9%. This is not the case for all foreign languages, with both Russian and Chinese seeing notable increases. Entries for Chinese, at 3,334, were greater than those for German for the first time.
Pressure in the system
It is important to note the high levels of pressure which the system has been under over the past few years (and continues to be under) whilst still seeing stability in the results, with A level outcomes at grades A*-E at 97.6%, just slightly down on the previous year and A*-A grades showing a slight increase to 26.4%. It is a credit to the teachers that they have been able to adapt to all the changes without disadvantaging their cohorts.
Credit must also be given to Ofqual for measures to curb grade inflation and also to maintain outcomes at a time of such upheaval, which could so easily have led to grade deflation.
In a system where teachers are perceived to be only as good as their last set of results there continues to be concern that any apparent decline in standards, no matter how small, can find teachers and headteachers accused of failing to meet targets. It is therefore encouraging that the overall picture is broadly a positive one.
The stakes for teachers and students have never been higher, so it is a pleasure to note that the evidence from today’s results is that teachers and students continue to succeed and respond positively to the enormous pressures.
It is with great pleasure that Voice sends students, teachers, headteachers and all school staff involved many congratulations!