The number of students getting top grades on their A-level results has dropped across England, Wales and Northern Ireland for a fifth year in a row. Girls have narrowed the gap, and have caught up with boys in attaining A* grades throughout the UK.
As reported by the Guardian, the overall pass rate from last year is unchanged, however, the top A* grade was awarded to 8.1% of candidates down from 8.2% in 2015.
The biggest drop has been seen in Wales, with A* grades dropping from 7.3% to 6.6%, including a fall of more than a full percentage point among boys, from 7.8% to 6.7%.
The overall proportion of A* grades is down compared to both 2015 and 2014, when the figure was at its highest at 8.2%. The overall pass rate this year is 98.1%, the same as last year.
Meanwhile, Maths was the most popular subject this year, for a second year in a row, ahead of English. Psychology also continues to grow in popularity behind Biology in third place. Entries to subjects including general studies, leisure and tourism have followed the trend of recent years and continued to plummet.
Entries in modern languages also continue to fall, with the numbers taking French down 6%.
The drop in top grades may be down due to recent controversial changes in the school curriculum, as reported by the Independent, with teachers having prepared students for the possibility of unexpected and disappointing grades.
Leading head teachers of private and state schools had said before A-level results were released that this year’s results would be the “most unfair in a generation”.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT union, has said that teachers and students have found it difficult to adapt to the new syllabus introduced this year which changed the process for both AS and A-levels:
“Students and teachers have had a very short timescale to get to grips with the new syllabuses, particularly at a time when they have been trying to prepare for the introduction of revised A-level courses from next month.”
Despite the drop in proportion of top grades received, a recent report by the BBC has shown that record numbers of UK university places have been offered to students across the UK.
The removal of the cap on university places in England has had an effect on the situation, described by universities as a “buyer’s market”. The clearing process- whereby students are matched with available places after results are published- has also played its part in the record numbers of university places offered this year.
There has been increased demand from universities for top students, as well on simply filling places at universities. Some universities have even gone as far as offering buy-one-get-one-free deals to entice top students to join.
Sheffield University have said that their clearing service took 1,800 calls in the first two hours after results were published, leading to 360 offers. Lynsey Hopkins, Sheffield’s head of admissions, said:
“There’s never been a better year to be applying to university in terms of your chances of getting a place.”
The Ucas admissions service has said that 424,000 places have been offered this year, up by 3% at the same time last year.