A-level trends: What this year’s results tell us
Here are six trends in this year’s A-level results:
1. Spanish on the up
Two years ago, Spanish overtook French to become the most popular language at A-level.
The gap widened in 2020 and grew even larger this year, with 9,139 entries for Spanish compared with 8,383 for French.
The number of French A-level entries has now fallen by more than a third (36%) in the past decade, though the total for 2021 was up very slightly on 2020.
Meanwhile German continues to decline, with just 2,708 entries this year, a drop of 5% on last year, and down by nearly a half (48%) since 2011.
2. Drama’s decline comes to a halt
A-level drama spent much of the past decade in decline, with entries tumbling 40% between 2011 and 2020.
But 2021 brought a surprise: a tiny rise in entries, up 1% from 9,590 to 9,645.
This is even more notable given drama students will have had a particularly tough time over the past two years, with the Covid-19 lockdowns likely to have seriously disrupted activities such as rehearsal and performance.
There was no sign of an end to the long-term decline of music, however.
Entries were down again in 2021, though only by 0.2%, and have now fallen 44% since 2011.
3. Computing continues to show biggest gender imbalance
Once again, computing was the A-level subject that recorded the biggest gender imbalance towards males, with boys making up 85% of entries and girls 15%.
Last year the split was 86%/14%.
The biggest imbalance towards females was in the relatively new subject of health & social care.
In the double award for this subject, girls made up 96% of entries and boys just 4%.
4. Girls overtake boys in top grade for maths
A-level maths female students have overtaken their male counterparts for the first time in terms of A* grades achieved.
Some 29.1% of girls were awarded A*, compared with 28.5% of boys.
A decade earlier in 2011, the figures stood at 17.1% of girls and 18.2% of boys, with boys holding a small lead all the way up to and including 2020.
5. Nearly half of all London entries received the highest grades
Every region of England recorded a year-on-year rise in the proportion of entries awarded A or A*, but London saw the biggest jump of all, up from 40.7% in 2020 to 47.9% in 2021.
This means nearly half of all A-level entries in the capital were given the highest grades.
North-east England saw the lowest percentage awarded A or A*: 39.2%, up from 35.6% last year.
In Northern Ireland more than half (50.8%) of entries received A or A*, up from 43.3% in 2020, while the percentage for Wales rose from 41.8% to 48.3%.
6. The decade’s winners and losers
Ten years ago around one in six A-level entries, or 16.5%, were in the three main sciences: biology, chemistry and physics.
By 2021 that figure had risen to around one in five, or 20.7%.
Over the same period the proportion of entries in English language and literature has shrunk from around one in 10 (10.4%) to one in 13 (7.5%).
The decade has been favourable for business and economics.
These two subjects accounted for 6.2% of entries in 2011 and 8.7% in 2021.
But the future seems less rosy for the performing arts and media.
Subjects in these areas made up 7.3% of entries a decade ago.
In 2021 the figure stood at 4.6%.