A-Level results day 2017 jubilation: thousands delight as percentage of top grades rises for first time in six years

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Boys have surged ahead of girls in this year’s A-level results, picking up more A* and A grades.

Male students scored more of the top two grades than their female classmates, according to UK figures published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) today.

It follows the biggest exams shake-up for a generation.

The figures show that 8.8 per cent of boys’ entries were awarded an A* – the highest grade available – this summer, compared to 7.8 per cent of girls’ entries, a one percentage point gap.

Crunch time: Students with their results at the London Academy of Excellence

Last year, the gap was 0.8 percentage points.

London again outperformed the rest of the UK, with 9.6 per cent of exams awarded an A*, while in the north east it was 7.0 per cent.

In terms of A*-A grades, boys are ahead for the first time, with 26.6 per cent of entries handed one of these results, compared to 26.1 per cent of girls’ entries.

Girls were ahead by 0.3 percentage points last year.

The dramatic reversal of fortunes is thought to be fuelled by the new “tougher” A-levels, introduced by former Education Secretary Michael Gove in a bid to drive up standards.

A total of 13 subjects were reformed under the changes, with a move away from coursework, modular exams throughout the course and the decoupling of AS-levels, making them more challenging.

Getting the grades: Philippa Kent (left) who is going to Hartford College Oxford to study Archaeology and Anthropology and Mirna Elghobashy who is going to Birmingham University to study Medicine (PA)

In these new reformed A-levels the percentage of students getting an A or A* was down by 0.7 percentage points to 24.3 per cent.

Overall top A-level results increased for the first time in six years, with more than one in four A levels were graded either an A or A*. 

This is the first time the pass rate for the top grades has risen since 2011.

The results have sparked a scramble for students, with top universities dropping grades for some courses to attract students.

The “buyer’s market” has been caused by a drop in applications to start degree courses at UK universities this autumn, fuelled by factors including a fall in the 18 and 19-year-old population, changes to funding for nursing degrees and the possible impact of Brexit.

Early Ucas figures show 416,310 people have taken up places at UK universities, down 2 per cent compared with the same point last year.

The A level results, for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, also show the overall A*-E pass rate has fallen by 0.2 percentage points to 97.9 per cent.

Figures showed a huge spike in the number of entries for a small range of subjects, including computing, with a 33 per cent rise in the number of A-level students sitting the exam in 2017, compared with last year. 

This included a 34 per cent increase in female students – 816, up from 609 in 2016.

There was a 12.8 per cent increase in the number taking political studies, and a 1.7 per cent rise in those taking Spanish at A-level.

But there were dips in the take-up of other languages – with a 2.1 per cent drop in those doing French and a 4.7 per cent decrease in students sitting German.

Elsewhere, entries for history – one of the most popular A-levels by number of students – fell by 8.1 per cent.

Data showed a 3.3 per cent increase in entries for maths, but there was a significant drop in those sitting English.

This included a drop of 10.2 per cent in English language, 4.7 per cent for literature, and 11.1 per cent for the combined English language and literature subject.

Overall, entries for English subjects saw a 7.2 per cent decrease.

The 13 reformed subjects are: art and design, biology, business, chemistry, computer science, economics, English language, English language and literature, English literature, history, physics, psychology and sociology.

Pupils at a secondary school close to the Grenfell Tower fire also received their AS-level results today.

Four pupils from Kensington Aldridge academy died in the fire and 50 were made homeless.

But in this year’s results, more than 40 per cent of the pupils achieved A* to B grades.

Head teacher David Benson said: “The pupils have been incredible.”

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