Some new perspectives on the 2018 A level results: STEM gap remains but decline in foreign languages exaggerated
This blog has been Kindly provided to HEPI by Mary Curnock Cook, Senior Advisor, Cairneagle Associates, as well as a HEPI Advisory Board member and a former CEO of UCAS.
Aggregate data on A level results are released by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), the umbrella body for the main exam boards in the UK. In a 49-page pdf file (with no available csv version), results are broken down by subject and by UK country as well as by gender. But like other data sources, such as the excellent data explorer from Education DataLab, https://results.ffteducationdatalab.org.uk/a-level.php, the JCQ data gives us numbers of entries which, without the underlying population data, make it difficult to ascertain the trends in subject preferences.
The JCQ press release mentions a 3.5% fall in the population which is probably an over-estimate. More carefully curated data to match exactly the school year and month of birth (which is pertinent to the school year of the student) estimate the population drop to be closer to 2.5%. In this note, we use proportion of total entries to look at trends. While this won’t account for any increase in the participation rate in A levels, it starts to provide a more useful measure of trends and preferences than simply plotting changes in the numbers of candidates.
Without having the data at individual candidate level, it’s impossible to ascertain the trends in subject combinations which would make interesting reading, especially following the move from AS/A2 to linear structures for many subjects. The JCQ could and should do much more to analyse the data it hosts from the exam boards – the gruesome pdfs, which have been released in the same prehistoric format for years, are a big frustration for anyone […]