Commenting on the results published today, Nansi Ellis, Assistant General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“The National Education Union congratulates the many thousands of students who have succeeded today in their A-Level and vocational qualifications. It pleases every teacher to see their students prosper and be able to pursue the next stage of their education, whether at university or on an apprenticeship.

“Despite funding cuts, teachers have continued to deliver A-Level and vocational courses of a high quality. This, in spite of sixth form and further education funding being particularly badly hit in recent years. It is imperative that additional investment is made to protect subjects and services. The NEU is a supporter of the Raise the Rate campaign.

“It is good to see that more students are studying Computing, Chemistry and Biology at A-Level, all of which are important subjects to gain access to university or work. It is good that more female students are taking the sciences at A-Level and have overtaken male students for the first time. It is very worrying however, that there continues to be a reduction in the number of students studying the English subjects, down 35%, and that the performing and expressive arts entries have dropped by 53%. Modern Foreign Languages such as French and German also continue to decline.

“If our students are not taking arts, English and humanities subjects to A-Level and on to degree level, what happens to teacher supply in the future? Students should be encouraged to take a mixture of subjects at A-Level, and not be made to choose between the STEM subjects and the arts/humanities.

“Grade boundaries are not static and will change year on year to a greater or lesser extent. Part of that difference is because of the level of difficulty of the questions in the paper, which has always been the case.

“Students have recently been subjected to reformed A-Levels, which take away AS staging and, in many subjects, coursework. They also push students towards a single exam at the end of the course. Our recent survey (1) shows that NEU members have witnessed a very clear worsening in mental health problems among students (55%) since the introduction of new A-Levels, and a third (37%) are convinced that they less accurately reflect a student’s true ability. Today’s results must be considered in this context. We are moving away from a system which engages and encourages learners, and this is having worrying effects on the very people the system is supposed to prepare for the outside world.”


NEU poll shows damaging impact of A-Level reforms on students’ mental health and engagement, (14 Aug 2019).

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