A Level pass grades fall for first time in three years after introduction of new exams


The number of pupils gaining pass grades at A level has fallen for the first time in three years, following the introduction of a tough a new curriculum.

A levels in 13 core subjects including English, sciences and economics – which all had coursework removed in favour of final exams – saw a fall of 0.5 per cent for A*-E grades – equivalent to thousands of pupils nationwide.

The overall A*-E pass rate, including non-reformed subjects, fell by 0.2 percentage points to 97.9 per cent, according to national figures published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ).

However, the number of pupils scoring an A* or A this summer increased to 26.3 per cent, up 0.5 percentage points on 2016.

The number of top grades awarded in subjects that have not been reformed rose for the first time in years, with more than one in four entries scoring an A grade overall.

This year’s candidates were the first to sit a new, linear A-level curriculum. Unlike in previous years, where students could prepare coursework and sit exams at the end of the AS year, this year’s cohort are to be graded solely on exams taken at the end of the two-year course.

Exam boards have been criticised for a number of hiccups found in rolling out the new courses, however, prompting complaints that this year’s cohort were forced to be “guinea pigs”, facing increased pressure on them to perform.

JCQ Director General, Michael Turner, said while there had “certainly been some change to the entry patterns”, it was “too early to draw conclusions” from the fall in pass grades in reformed subjects.

Issuing a statement on the results, he said: “Today is about congratulating the hundreds of thousands of students on their efforts and results and ensuring they get the right support they need to embark on the next stage of their lives.

”The overall UK picture for A levels this year is steady, with small increases in the top grades.

“There may be several factors influencing the performance of males and females in reformed A levels in England, and of course it is too early to draw any firm conclusion. However, it will be interesting to see if the pattern continues as we progress through the reform timetable.”

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