A-Level Results Show a “Significant Change in Approach” is Needed 

Today’s A-Level results show very little change with results similar to those before the pandemic. The percentage of female entrants to core-STEM subjects is still around 43%. WISE CEO Kay Hussain says the lack of movement is a “stark reminder” of a persisting problem in education.

The percentage of girls taking STEM subjects at A-level is not improving, calling for a “significant change in approach” says WISE CEO Kay Hussain

We see a small drop in the percentage of female entrants taking Biology, Mathematics, Physics and other sciences. However, small rises were seen in Chemistry, Computing and ICT.

The percentage of female entries in the core-STEM subjects as a whole is almost the same (from 43.3% in 2022 to 43.4% in 2023). 

No change means “change is urgently needed”

This year’s A-Level results are similar to those that were awarded to students before the pandemic, demonstrating a lack of change across the board. 

Commenting on today’s results, WISE CEO Kay Hussain said: “I’d first like to congratulate all students on their A-Level success today. It’s a very important day and I was particularly happy to see a record number of core-STEM A-Levels being awarded overall.”

“However, the lack of movement in the percentage of female entrants is a stark reminder of the persisting problem that is harming our businesses, our economy and our society as a whole.

Kay Hussain - WISE - CEO

An illusion of inclusion 

“The shortage of girls across STEM subjects is a symptom of a deeper problem, a systemic condition which is rife in our culture, our education system and our workforce, it’s an illusion of inclusion.

“It can only be effectively treated if we acknowledge and commence treatment at the source, which is of course the education system. 

“This will take time to remedy, so urgent action is required now to fuel the future talent pipeline to close the UK STEM skills gap. 

“In the meantime, conscious efforts across the rest of the STEM talent pipeline are critical and all employers have a part to play.

“Girls can’t aspire to be what they can’t see. We must widen the lens for them so they can see clearly their options, and their potential. 

Women role models are needed 

Kay added: “That’s why women role models are so fundamental in helping to change the narrative and the optics.

“The WISE My Skills My Life outreach platform exists for this reason, and helps to showcase opportunities available and inspire girls from the point of education. 

She added: “To coin a phrase, often attributed to the world-renowned and world-respected STEM talent, Albert Einstein, ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”

“A significant change in approach is needed and it’s needed now. I would urge all forward-thinking employers to bear this in mind as they march towards better gender equity, diversity and inclusion in STEM.” 

Grades through the pandemic 

Commenting on this summer’s results, Margaret Farragher, JCQ’s Chief Executive, said: “This year’s results recognise the fantastic achievements of students across the country. They have worked incredibly hard throughout the pandemic period to achieve these well-earned grades. 

“The 2023 results show that students are well equipped to continue their studies or move into apprenticeships or employment. 

“Alongside publishing A-Level results, JCQ has this year included Vocational and Technical Qualifications results. We are committed to continuing our support for vocational and technical qualifications”.

Changes this year will lead to “permanent improvements”

Dr. Jo Saxton, Chief Regulator of Ofqual said: “Congratulations to all students receiving results today. They should be proud of their results, which are a testament to their hard work and the support they have received from their schools and colleges.

“Thanks to the collective efforts of everyone in the sector, VTQs have been delivered on time this year. Last year so many students were left waiting for their results, and I was determined that this would not happen again. 

“I believe that the changes made this year to results delivery will now lead to permanent improvements. We are committed to taking a similar approach next year, continuing with a term-time checkpoint and a clear deadline for awarding organisations to issue results. 

“I’m delighted too that we can today publish for the first time the total number of VTQ results that are used for progression on to further or higher education, so that these students can be celebrated alongside their peers who took A levels. 

“The greater visibility of information represents a significant step towards parity of treatment for students taking VTQs who are today getting the recognition they deserve.’

A-Levels 2023 in more detail 

Mathematics remains the most popular subject, accounting for 11.2% of all entries at A-level in 2023. Entries have increased by 1.3% from 95,635 in 2022 to 96,853 in 2023. 

Computing A level has seen the biggest increase in the number of entries; up 16.7% from 15,693 in 2022 to 18,306 in 2023, while Economics is now one of the ten most popular A level subjects with 39,141 entries. 

The ten most popular A level subjects in terms of entries are Mathematics (96,853), Psychology (80,493), Biology (74,650), Chemistry (61,284), History (48,378), Sociology (47,436), Business Studies (44,852), Art and Design (43,464), Economics (39,141) and Physics (38,379). 

Total number of AS candidates, 66,601. This is up from 62,229 in 2022. 

Overall, AS entries are up by 4.2% from 135,397 in 2022 to 141,096 due to increases in Northern Ireland and Wales.

Get in Touch with WISE

WISE exists to deliver women-centred equity, diversity and inclusion to the STEM sectors, with many leading UK organisations improving their gender balance through membership.

To speak to someone about membership, email info@wisecampaign.org.uk or visit the membership page for more details.