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RS A-level student numbers fall again

15 August 2019


Hannah Millward, 18, reacts as she opens her A Level results on Thursday, at St Mary Redcliffe & Temple School, Bristol

Hannah Millward, 18, reacts as she opens her A Level results on Thursday, at St Mary Redcliffe & Temple School, Bristol

THE number of students sitting A levels in religious studies in the UK has dropped again. The A-level results, published on Thursday, showed that 19,406 people took the exam.

The number is down from 20,527 last year, and 26,086 the year before: a drop of 5.5 per cent from 2018, and 25.6 per cent from 2017.The data, published by the Joint Council for Qualifications, shows that more than twice the number of female students took the RS exam than males, 13,972 against 5434. Just 2.4 per cent of students overall took the course.

Ben Wood, chair of the National Association of Teachers of RE, said on Thursday that it was sad to see not more students taking religious studies, especially “at a time when high levels of religious literacy have never been more important”.

He said: “Unfortunately, there has again been a decline in the number of entries for A level this year, though thankfully, this fall is much less than last year. The continuing problem of the number of schools that are failing to provide RS at Key Stage 4, and thus are failing in their statutory duty, means that fewer students are given the chance to study for a GCSE religious studies.

“This consequently impacts on the number of students taking the option of A level religious studies. At a time when high levels of religious literacy have never been more important, it is sad to see that so many young people are not given the opportunity they deserve, especially when teachers of RS see the many benefits this course offers young people.”

Rudolf Eliott Lockhart, the chief executive of the Religious Education Council of England and Wales, said: “Although today’s figures are less alarming than last year, and overall A-level entries are significantly higher than they were there 15 years ago, we are nevertheless witnessing an ongoing decline.

“This is, in our view, a direct impact of the increasing number of schools – now around a third - that are failing to meet their legal obligation to provide RE to all pupils up to the age of 16.”

The numbers of exams taken by students fell overall, and the proportion of people gaining an A grade or higher was at its lowest for more than a decade. 25.5 per cent of UK entries were awarded an A or an A*, the lowest since 2007, when it was 25.3 per cent.

In a statement on Thursday, the Revd Nigel Genders, the Church of England’s chief education officer, said: “Many will be thrilled with their grades and excited about their future plans — and we celebrate with them and offer our sincere thanks to their teachers who have worked tirelessly to help them achieve what they have achieved.

“But to others, today’s results will come as a blow; as they face the reality that although they tried their best, they have not done as well as they hoped.

“Our schools are proud to help students aspire to achieve their very best academically, but they are about more than that: they must be a place where young people learn they are not valued for the grades they get but for the people they become.”

More female students than males counterparts took science A levels for the first time ever, 50.3 per cent compared with 49.6 per cent, after a campaign to persuade more girls to take sciences and maths.

Spanish overtook French as the most popular foreign language to take at A-level, with 8,625 students taking Spanish, compared with 8,355 taking French.

Numbers taking English literature fell 7.8 per cent from 44,200 last year to 40,824; and English language dropped 21.8 per cent, from 18,049 last year to 14,114.

Philip Wright, director general of the Joint Council for Qualifications, which represents the examination boards, said: “This year’s pass rates are stable across all A levels and it is particularly encouraging to see the rise in young people being inspired to take science A levels.”

LICHFIELD CATHEDRAL SCHOOLStudents at Lichfield Cathedral School celebrate

Lichfield Cathedral School was celebrating achieving well above the national average: 31 per cent of grades were A or A*, 17 per cent more than last year. The school also had a 100-per-cent pass rate, with 86 per cent of grades A*-C.

The school’s headmistress, Susan Hannam, said: “These excellent results reflect the hard work and positive attitudes of our students, and the skill, professionalism, and dedication of our wonderful teachers.”

The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, posted on Twitter on Thursday: “Praying for all those receiving results today and those who support you. Know your results will not define you and that your name is written on the palm of God’s hand.”

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