Science still below par as passes rise

BUSINESS leaders yesterday said the number of students studying A-Level maths and science is still too low, despite an upswing in the number of candidates taking A-Levels in these subjects since 2010.

The number of UK students sitting A-Level maths rose 7.8 per cent since last year, according to yesterday’s provisional data released by the Joint Council for Qualifications, while the number of students sitting further maths rose 5.2 per cent.

The number of candidates sitting the biology, chemistry and physics A-Level exams rose 7.2 per cent, 9.2 per cent and 6.1 per cent respectively.

However, the number of candidates taking further maths represents just 1.4 per cent of the total A-Levels sat, or 12,287 students, with physics candidates representing 3.8 per cent, or 32,860 students.

This compares to 50,897 students taking A-level history, or 5.9 per cent of the total, and 89,980 students, or 10.4 per cent, taking English.

Overall, 97.8 per cent of candidates gained at least an E grade, up from 97.6 per cent last year. One in twelve exams were given the top A* grade.

Dr Neil Bentley, deputy director-general of the CBI, said: “We’re encouraged more people have heeded the call from businesses to study A-Level maths and science, but overall numbers are still far too low and must increase further to meet employer demand.”

However, Bentley welcomed the increase in the number of candidates taking A-Level Chinese, up from 2,372 in 2010 to 3,237 this year. He said: “Strong exports performance in emerging markets will be crucial to driving our economic recovery, so it’s positive news.”

Meanwhile, PwC reported applications for its A-Level job programme have doubled since last year to 1,600 candidates (see profile below).

The professional services scheme gives school leavers on-the-job and college-based training, leading to a professional qualification.