Computing, media and sports studies are latest exam fashion

A-level results: Pupils turning to vocational subjects, while standards in art schools come under attack
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The Independent Online
YOUNG PEOPLE are increasingly turning to subjects such as computing, media studies and sport at A-level, at the expense of some traditional disciplines, national exam results reveal today.

The results, which give the first detailed information on pupils' choice of subjects, show that entries for computing were up 22 per cent, while those for media and television studies and sport rose by nearly 17 per cent. Business studies and general studies entries were up by 10 per cent.

Conventional academic A-levels in disciplines such as history, French and economics all declined in popularity, at a time when the total number of A-level entries has increased.

The number taking English at A-level also declined, although exam boards put the fall down to the effects of a one-year blip in English entries last year.

The figures echo the trend in university applications, revealed last week, which showed a large rise in the popularity of job-related degrees such as business studies, computing and accountancy. Science subjects, however, held up, with entries for mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology all rising in line with the national increase in A-level entries.

Despite the growth of newer disciplines, traditional courses still dominate. But John Sutton, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, warned: "The decrease in the number taking foreign languages is a cause for concern."

English remained the most popular A-level, with 94,000 entries, followed by general studies. Mathematics was third, with 70,000 entries.

Chemistry, biology, geography, history and physics are still in the top 10, although business studies has crept into eighth place. Home economics was the least popular of the mainstream exams with only 2,418 entries.

Dr Ron McLone, convener of the Joint Forum for the GCSE and GCE, which represents A-level exam boards, said: "Subjects where we see large rises in entries reflect social changes. It isn't surprising that there is a rise in computing or that there is great stress on business studies."

Entrants to AS-level examinations, the equivalent of half a conventional A-level, suffered a decline of just over 1 per cent. The exams, due to be relaunched in 2000, have become less and less popular. Only five subjects attracted more than 3,000 candidates.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said there was an urgent need to change the "excessively narrow" sixth- form curriculum."

Professor Alan Smithers of Liverpool University said entries in subjects such as physics and chemistry were rising in line with an increase in the number of 18-year-olds.

Today's pass-rate figures are provisional, and could be changed by appeals.

Mathematics proved the top-performing course again this year, with nearly 30 per cent of candidates gaining a grade A, slightly up on last year. Modern languages also produced a large crop of A grades, with about one- quarter of candidates gaining an A in German, Spanish and a range of other languages.

But there was a wide variation in performance. Newer subjects yielded much smaller proportions of top grades: only about 8 per cent got an A in sport or computing.

Bethan Marshall,

Review, page 5

Education section,

Review, pages 14-15

HOW THE SUBJECTS COMPARE

Grades A to E represent A-level passes; grades N and grade U fail (grade N was originally equivalent to an O-level)

The figures in brackets are the final 1997 results.

Where necessary, grade percentages have been rounded to add up to 100.

% of candidates gaining grade

Subject A B C D E N U No sat

Art and Design 23.1 20.6 24.0 17.9 9.9 3.3 1.2 37,119

(21.0) (20.4) (24.3) (19.1) (10.2) (3.9) (1.1) (35,508)

Biology 15.9 19.3 19.2 17.5 14.0 8.0 6.1 58,457

(14.9) (19.6) (19.2) (17.7) (14.7) (8.7) (5.2) (56,706)

Business 8.2 19.1 24.1 20.6 14.0 8.1 5.9 37,008

Studies (7.7) (19.2) (23.5) (21.2) (14.8) (8.6) (5.0) (33,458)

Chemistry 23.0 21.2 18.6 14.7 11.1 6.9 4.5 43,030

(21.4) (21.6) (18.3) (14.8) (12.0) (7.2) (4.7) (42,262)

Classical subjects 25.9 22.2 19.9 15.4 9.3 4.4 2.9 6,610

(24.5) (22.1) (21.0) (15.6) (8.9) (4.4) (3.5) (7,125)

Communication studies 12.2 19.1 16.4 17.0 14.7 9.8 10.8 4,911

(12.5) (18.6) (17.6) (17.1) (14.6) (9.4) (10.2) (5,164)

Computing 8.3 13.7 20.8 20.5 17.3 10.6 8.8 14,643

(9.9) (13.0) (18.3) (20.2) (17.4) (11.1) (10.1) (11,986)

Economics 18.0 18.1 19.2 17.1 12.7 8.0 6.9 18,670

(16.6) (17.3) (18.8) (18.1) (13.4) (8.1) (7.7) (20,765)

English 14.9 19.1 22.9 21.3 13.7 5.6 2.5 94,099

(14.6) (19.0) (23.1) (21.5) (14.1) (5.5) (2.2) (95,223)

Expressive 10.6 16.5 25.1 22.9 13.3 6.7 4.9 11,403

arts (10.3) (16.9) (24.0) (21.5) (15.1) (7.2) (5.0) (10,826)

French 21.6 20.7 19.6 17.3 11.6 6.2 3.0 23,633 (20.6) (20.5) (19.9) (16.8) (12.2) (6.6) (3.4) (25,881)

General 13.0 16.6 20.3 19.5 15.2 9.0 6.4 80,570 studies (13.6) (16.4) (18.8) (19.6) (15.8) (9.6) (6.2) (73,185)

Geography 15.0 22.3 23.5 18.6 12.0 6.0 2.6 44,881 (12.0) (22.1) (23.3) (19.4) (13.3) (6.9) (3.0) (43,808)

German 26.7 19.1 19.8 15.4 10.6 5.7 2.7 10,192 (24.4) (19.3) (18.5) (16.6) (12.0) (6.3) (2.9) (10,440)

History 15.4 19.5 20.7 18.7 12.8 7.0 5.9 40,495 (14.9) (19.2) (20.7) (18.6) (13.4) (7.3) (5.9) (42,706)

Home 10.4 17.2 22.1 21.4 14.3 8.4 6.2 2,418 economics (9.7) (17.5) (21.7) (22.1) (15.1) (8.0) (5.9) (2,512)

Law 11.2 12.3 17.2 17.0 15.4 11.4 15.5 10,885 (11.4) (12.5) (16.7) (17.0) (15.6) (11.0) (15.8) (11,571)

Maths 28.0 19.1 16.7 13.9 10.6 6.5 5.2 70,554 (27.8) (20.3) (17.3) (14.1) (10.4) (5.1) (5.0) (68,880)

Media/Film/TV studies 10.6 16.1 28.6 24.9 13.0 4.3 2.5 13,545 (10.9) (17.4) (28.4) (24.2) (12.6) (4.3) (2.2) (11,581)

Music 19.5 20.5 23.5 19.0 10.8 4.5 2.2 7,012 (19.5) (20.8) (23.9) (18.7) (10.8) (4.5) (1.8) (6,951)

Other Modern 32.4 25.7 18.6 11.4 6.0 3.0 2.9 5,157 Languages (30.7) (23.9) (17.2) (12.6) (7.0) (4.2) (4.4) (5,522)

Physics 22.4 20.8 18.6 15.5 11.2 7.1 4.4 34,244 (21.6) (21.6) (18.4) (15.5) (11.5) (7.0) (4.4) (33,243)

Political studies 17.9 21.7 23.2 17.8 10.3 5.3 3.8 10,051 (14.7) (23.9) (23.5) (18.3) (10.8) (5.6) (3.2) (10,825)

Psychology 11.1 16.7 20.2 18.8 14.9 10.5 7.8 29,796 (10.9) (17.4) (19.4) (18.5) (14.5) (9.4) (9.9) (27,999)

Religious studies 14.9 21.2 22.1 19.1 12.0 6.0 4.7 9,138 (14.5) (19.3) (24.0) (20.4) (12.4) (5.6) (3.8) (9,412)

Science 11.7 16.1 20.9 23.1 16.5 7.8 3.9 5,246 (11.3) (15.7) (20.1) (22.3) (17.0) (8.7) (4.9) (5,353)

Sociology 12.1 18.0 19.4 16.6 14.1 10.7 9.1 26,242 (11.5) (16.6) (16.4) (16.9) (15.3) (9.6) (13.7) (28,337)

Spanish 24.8 22.6 20.0 15.0 9.8 4.5 3.3 5,653 (25.0) (22.3) (19.2) (15.9) (9.2) (5.1) (3.3) (5,606)

Sport/PE studies 8.1 12.4 22.3 25.6 19.7 8.9 3.0 14,628 (7.1) (13.9) (22.1) (26.0) (19.2) (8.6) (3.1) (12,449)

Technology subjects 12.2 13.9 23.4 22.6 16.3 7.6 4.0 13,316 (12.9) (15.1) (24.3) (22.7) (14.7) (7.1) (3.2) (11,680)

Welsh 18.5 22.6 23.7 20.8 9.4 3.7 1.3 953 (18.6) (24.7) (23.7) (17.5) (12.3) (2.7) (0.5) (957)

All other subjects 13.4 17.6 20.1 16.5 12.2 7.9 12.3 9,703 (13.7) (17.5) (18.1) (16.7) (13.5) (7.8) (12.7) (9,789)

TOTAL 16.8 18.9 20.8 18.3 13.0 7.2 5.0 794,262 (16.2) (19.0) (20.5) (18.5) (13.4) (7.2) (5.2) (777,710)

Science includes all science subjects except Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Other Modern Languages includes all languages except French, German, Spanish and Welsh.

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