Boost in popularity for Chemistry A Level

The Royal Society of Chemistry reports that chemistry at A-level has now overtaken history as the fourth most popular A-level subject with 6.3% of the total number of entrants.

President, Professor Sir John Holman, says: “Over 50,000 students – almost exactly equal numbers of males and females – made the wise choice to take A-level chemistry, which opens so many doors to rich future careers.”

In England, the most dramatic figures have been around AS-levels, where reforms to 13 subjects (which began in 2015) continue to impact numbers taking those exams, with an average of 39.1% fewer entrants across all subjects.

Changes to the English system mean 13 A-level subjects were decided solely by final exams, with no link to coursework or AS-levels taken after the first year of study. As AS-levels no longer contribute to A-level results, many schools have either chosen not to offer AS-levels or have not entered as many students for that qualification. A dramatic fall in entries for AS-levels across the reformed subjects includes a 55% drop in entries for chemistry. However, this drop is comparable to that for other sciences, and less pronounced than the fall in entries for some other subjects.

Professor Sir John Holman was a teacher of chemistry and a head teacher for a number of years before taking up posts at the University of York.

“The decoupling of AS from A-level risks further narrowing the already narrow A-level curriculum. Reforms to A-levels are still working through, but we already know that most students are now taking only three A-levels, giving England just about the narrowest post-16 curriculum in the developed world.

Although A-level entries for chemistry look healthy when looking at the combined figures for the nations who use these qualifications, the picture is different when looking at the nations individually. In England entries were 1.7% up against a decrease of 0.6% for all subjects, which is an encouraging figure. In Wales entries for chemistry decreased by 5.8%, but this is against an overall fall in entries of 6.3%.

Read more Boost in popularity for Chemistry A Level

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