Analysis of 2019 A Level Core STEM Entrants and Results

  • Increase in core STEM* A Levels awarded to girls as number awarded to boys drops and as total number of A Levels awarded falls
  • More science A Levels awarded to girls than boys for the first time
  • Year on year increase in the percentage of computing A Level awards to girls
  • Drop in percentage of maths A Levels awarded to girls

1,930 more core STEM* A Levels have been awarded to girls in 2019 than in 2018, while the number awarded to boys has dropped by a similar amount (1,792). Girls achieved 130,121 core STEM A Levels in 2019, while boys got 169,638.

In 2019, for the first time, there have been more science A levels awarded to girls than to boys, with girls accounting for 50.3% of the combined total of biology, chemistry and physics A levels awarded.

The bulk of the rise in science A Levels awarded to girls is down to increases in the numbers taking biology and chemistry. 415 more girls achieved physics A Levels compared to 2018, taking the percentage of girls from 22.2% to 22.6%.

The percentage of maths A Levels being awarded to girls has declined year-on-year, mirroring the decline in the numbers of boys.

This is significant because physics and maths A Levels are core entry requirements for core STEM degrees and higher (level 4+) apprenticeships in engineering and technology.

In computing, there has been a year-on-year increase in the number of girls taking the subject at A Level and a corresponding increase in the percentage of students who are female, although the percentage is still low at 13.3% and the numerical increase, at just over 250, is less than half the increase in the number of boys taking the subject compared to 2018.

The reforms to A Levels have, as anticipated, led to a drop in the percentage of students awarded A* and A grades. With a far greater focus on examinations than on coursework it had been anticipated that this would mean a relative decline in female performance. However, this has not happened. Indeed, in physics and computing, the percentages of girls who were awarded A* and A grades were higher than the percentages of boys.

*Core STEM subjects include: Physics, Maths, Further Maths, Chemistry, Biology, Computing, ICT, Design and Technology, and Other Sciences.

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