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Thursday, 17 August, 2000, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
Girls are A-level stars
girls in classroom
Girls are now outperforming boys at GCSE and A-level
For the first time girls are performing better than boys in the A-level exams.

They overtook boys at GCSE level a few years ago.

The fact that more girls are aiming for careers and university than in the past is one suggested reason for the rise.

Another is that the introduction of more course work and modular exams suits girls better.

Thursday's results also show that for the 18th successive year the overall pass rate has risen, but the government and the examining boards reject claims that the exams are getting easier.
Lucy Saunders Evans
Lucy Saunders-Evans jumps for joy with six grade As

The only area of education where boys remain ahead is in the number of first class degrees obtained at university.

The overall rise in grades has once again prompted sceptics to say there has been a "dumbing down" in the exam process.

But the Joint Council for General Qualifications, the umbrella body for exam boards in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, says standards are being maintained.

Click below for complete subject-by-subject tables of all the results at:

The Higher Education Minister, Baroness Blackstone, has dismissed "denigrating" claims by the Institute of Directors that A-levels are suffering from "endemic and rampant grade inflation".

She said: "Ofsted, the schools inspectorate, has been looking at this for some years now and there is absolutely no evidence for the claims that the Institute of Directors is making.

"Young people are working harder, they know it's a tough world out there, they know they have got to get good qualifications, if they want good jobs.

Broader curriculum

"It is also the case that schools are preparing them better."

The number of exam entries also went up slightly, even though there has been a drop in the number of 18-year-olds.

And there is evidence that the curriculum is already getting broader, in line with ministers' wishes, with a marked increase in the numbers taking AS-levels but no corresponding decrease in those taking A-levels.

For the first time the joint council has published its breakdown of the results by gender, highlighting the girls' performance.

Most A-level entries were from female candidates - 54% against 46% from males.

The number of girls awarded A grades was 18.1%, up from 17.4%. The figure for boys was 17.5%, unchanged from last year.

Girls were also awarded more Bs and Cs - 19.9% and 21.8% respectively, compared to 18.2% and 20.6% of boys.

But boys got more of the lower passes, at D and E - 18.7% and 13.1% respectively, against 18.3% and 12% for females.

More opt for computing

The number of A grades rose from 17.5% to 17.8%. The proportion of all pass grades was up by just over half of one percentage point, to 89.1%.

The overall number of exams sat rose slightly - by 1,298 to 784,990. This total is larger than the total in the tables because they are broken down by gender and several thousand candidates did not give their gender on their papers.

The figures also confirm the rising popularity of subjects such as computing, information technology (IT), psychology and sociology.

At A-level, computing/IT entries were up 11.4%, at AS-level they were up by a quarter, and the Advanced GNVQ in IT had 8.4% more candidates.

There has been a continuing fall in the number of entries for modern languages and for sciences - although biology and chemistry are still in the "top five" most popular subjects, below general studies, English and maths.

Click here to see the "popularity" table.

Supplementary exams more popular

AS-levels, up in popularity this year by 9.6%, are set to become much more important in sixth forms from this September.

As part of the new curriculum, first year sixth formers will be expected to do four or five one-year AS-level subjects, narrowing their choice in the second year when they choose which courses to do for A-level.

But there was a drop of 11.8% in the numbers of entries for Advanced GNVQs, being made more rigorous and re-named Vocational A-levels from this year.

But it is believed students are taking other vocationally-oriented exams such as BTECs - being promoted heavily this summer by one of the main English exam boards, Edexcel.

This year's rise in the number of A grades continues an unbroken run of improvement stretching back to 1990.

Since then, the proportion of entries achieving A grades has risen from 11.6% to 17.8%.

SUBJECT ENTRIES %
General studies 89805 11.6
English 86428 11.2
Mathematics 67036 8.7
Biology 54814 7.1
Chemistry 40856 5.3
History 38779 5.0
Business studies 38226 5.0
Art and Design subjects 37609 4.9
Geography 37112 4.8
Physics 32059 4.2
Psychology 30187 3.9
Sociology 23901 3.1
Computing 19099 2.5
French 18221 2.4
Economics 17113 2.2
Sport/PE studies 16529 2.1
Media/Film/TV studies 15269 2.0
Technology subjects 14650 1.9
Expressive Arts 11401 1.5
Law 10325 1.3
Religious studies 9178 1.2
Political studies 9172 1.2
German 8692 1.1
Music 6815 0.9
Classical subjects 5654 0.7
Spanish 5632 0.7
Other Modern Languages 5296 0.7
Science 4654 0.6
Communication studies 3797 0.5
Home Economics 2019 0.3
Welsh 1020 0.1
All other subjects 10461 1.4

Science includes all science subjects except Biology, Chemistry and Physics
Other Modern Languages includes all languages except French, German, Spanish and Welsh
Welsh includes Welsh (First Language) and Welsh (Second Language)

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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sue Litllemore
"Girls are generally doing better than boys"
Education Minister, Baroness Blackstone
"Standards in A levels are being maintained"
Jenny Watson, Equal Opportunities Commission
"There are things it is cool to do and things it is not cool to do"

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14 Aug 00 | UK Education
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