Press release

A level results day

Statement from Minister of State for School Standards Nick Gibb and the exam results helpline.

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Minister of State for School Standards Nick Gibb said:

Congratulations to everyone collecting their results today, which are the culmination of years of hard work by students and teachers. I wish everyone getting their results success as they embark on the next stage of their lives. With a growing jobs market, the choice of a high quality apprenticeship, university or college place on offer, I’m confident that with hard work and commitment, whatever option they pursue they will go on to fulfil their potential.

We want to make our country a place where there is no limit on anyone’s ambition or what they can achieve. It is hugely encouraging that this year sees a record 424,000 applicants already securing a place at one of our world-class universities, with increasing numbers from disadvantaged backgrounds gaining a place as well.

AS and A levels

Overall entries and results for A levels remain stable.

We are seeing huge numbers of students taking the A level subjects that will give them the greatest choice of university courses. Alongside this our AS level reforms mean we can be confident young people will sit exams at the right time and develop the knowledge and understanding they need to master their subject without the sixth form years being dominated by continual exams.

Entries and attainment remain stable in the A level subjects that give students the greatest options of university course.

Mathematics remains the most popular subject at A level and attainment remains stable.

The proportion of students studying STEM subjects at A level remains stable.

It is encouraging to see an increasing number of students taking A level computing which increased by 16% this year.

AS entries have shown a drop this year - we believe that this is largely driven by schools and colleges starting to take the opportunity offered by the new decoupled AS qualification and we welcome this change.

University

Today is yet another record for university entrants with 424,000 applicants, including students from disadvantaged backgrounds, already securing a place at one of our world-class universities.

Students who have not yet secured a place at university can use the Clearing service to look for an alternative, the UCAS exam results hotline is on 0808 100 8000 and can help advise anyone on what to do next.

The government is committed to ensuring that everyone with the ability can benefit from a degree, and our new higher education reforms will create a transparency revolution to shine a light on inequality and give young people the information they need to choose the course that’s right for them.

Notes for editors

Advice from head of profession on comparability

Children sitting decoupled AS levels this year were the first to be taught and assessed under these revised AS levels. These changes mean that information on the attainment of different types of AS levels is not directly comparable with previous years.

The cohort who have entered decoupled AS levels this year will largely be 17-year-olds in their first year of post-16 study, whereas those sitting legacy AS levels (in the now decoupled subjects) will largely be 18-year-olds sitting or re-sitting the AS on route to an A level. Those sitting AS levels in non-decoupled subjects will be a mix of 17- and 18-year-olds. It would therefore be incorrect and misleading to make direct comparisons between the 2016 data for these 3 groups (decoupled only, legacy only and all AS levels).

JCQ and Ofqual are however publishing data which will allow comparison between the age 17 cohort for the now decoupled AS subjects in 2015, and the 2016 age 17 cohort for the decoupled AS levels. This is the best proxy available for comparison.

So, it is not a like-for-like comparison to say ‘the percentage of pupils achieving the top AS grades in decoupled AS levels is lower than that for all AS levels’.

However we can say that ‘for all AS levels in 2016, 21.3% of entries were the top grade (A). For decoupled AS levels only, 16.3% were the top grade’ or ‘Grade A attainment has remained stable (16.8%) in 2015 and 2016 for 17-year-olds (in the AS subjects that are now decoupled).’ (based on data to be published by JCQ).

Once we receive further pupil level results in the autumn, we will begin analysing the results to see whether we can provide further advice to support interpretations of the data on decoupled AS levels in the provisional SFR which will be published in October 2016.

Cohort changes

It is important to take expected cohort changes into account when interpreting how the numbers of entries in AS and A levels have changed. ONS 2015 mid-year estimates show an expected decrease in the age 17 and age 18 population across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, by 1.5% and 3.1% respectively.

Therefore the drop of just 1.7% in entries at A level, against a 3.1% population fall implies either more students are taking A levels, or those students sitting A levels are sitting more of them.

From the 2015 cycle onwards, applications to postgraduate teacher training programmes in Scotland were included in the UCAS undergraduate admissions scheme, previously these were recruited through UCAS teacher training. In 2015, around 120 courses at providers in Scotland moved into the UCAS undergraduate scheme, estimated to represent around 2,000 acceptances, mostly aged 21 or over. Comparisons between 2016 and 2014 (or earlier cycles) will be affected by this change.

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Published 18 August 2016