A-Levels results: Top grades success as boys pull ahead of girls for first time in almost 20 years

Students celebrate getting there a level exam results at Rossett School, Harrogate.
Students celebrate getting there a level exam results at Rossett School, Harrogate.

The proportion of A-levels scoring the highest grades has risen for the first time in six years, although figures suggest a major government overhaul of exams is having an impact on results.

Boys emerged as the winners in this summer’s results, pulling ahead of girls in terms of A* to A grades for the first time in almost two decades.

More than one in four - 26.3 per cent - of A-level entries scored an A* or A this summer, up 0.5 percentage points on last year.

It is the first time the A* to A pass rate has risen since 2011.

In Yorkshire there was also a slight rise, with 23.4 per cent of exams awarded the top grades.

The increase comes amid major changes to the qualifications in England, with a move away from coursework and modular exams throughout the course, as well as the decoupling of AS-levels, making them more challenging for students.

While the A to-A* pass-rate has risen, there has been a drop in top results among the first 13 subjects to be overhauled, statistics from the Joint Council of Qualifications (JCQ) show.

Alex Scharaschkin, director of research at AQA, said students will not have been disadvantaged by taking the new-style exams.

“We’ve been clear and very careful to make sure that the results are fair, so there has been no advantage or disadvantage from something you cannot control, the year you were born,” he said.

“In terms of your A-level results they will be fair and they will be the right results.”

The overall pass rate - those achieving grades A* to E - has fallen by 0.2 percentage points to 97.9 per cent, which has been echoed in Yorkshire.

The results come as early figures from admissions body Ucas showed that fewer students have been accepted on to degree courses so far this year.

In total, 416,310 people have taken up places, down two per cent compared with the same point last year.

The fall comes in the wake of an overall drop in applications to start degree courses at UK universities this autumn.

But despite today’s drop in acceptances, the number of students gaining university places on A-level day is still the second-highest number recorded, the university admissions service said.

The fall means that many options are still available for students hoping to start degree courses this autumn with the majority of universities, including many top Russell Group institutions, entering clearing in a bid to recruit good candidates.

This year a total of 26,090 EU students have been placed, a fall of 3 per cent compared with 2016, but still the second-highest recorded.

Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant said: “The overall numbers of students being accepted onto courses is lower, but it is a complicated picture.

“We are seeing a growing proportion of 18-year-olds going into higher education, and greater numbers of students from our most deprived communities are securing places.

“At the same time, we are seeing fewer older students taking places, and a fall in numbers from the EU.”

The figures show record numbers of UK 18-year-olds from the poorest backgrounds have been accepted on to courses - 21,470, in total. However, the most advantaged teenagers are still almost two-and-a-half times more likely to win places.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: “There has been a strong uptake in core subjects, such as maths, which continues to be the most popular A-level, with maths and further maths having nearly 25 per cent more entries than in 2010.

“It will help to grow our workforce in these sectors, allowing young people to secure well-paid jobs and compete in the global jobs market of post-Brexit Britain.”