A-level results: Michael Gove should be pleased with today's marks


If Michael Gove had been around today as Education Secretary he would have been chuffed by this year’s results.

He always said he would not be worried by being the man not to preside over a ever-upward trend in results, and indeed saw the percentage of A* and A grade passes fall during his time at the helm.

He would also have taken great pleasure in the rise in the take-up of science and maths subjects: maths is the most popular subject, partly due to the controversy over GCSE marking of English two years ago, leaving hundreds of students without the grades to pursue it as their A-level option.

He would also have noted the rise in take-up of the facilitating subjects at AS-level which he would have been able to put down to the introduction of his English Baccalaureate at GCSE level. The cohort that were the guinea pigs for the first year of the EB were those who took their AS levels this year - and hopefully will go on to take full A-levels in the subjects next year.

So should we welcome the legacy that he has left us? In some ways, yes. It has to be good news that the take-up of maths and the sciences is increasing for our ability to compete in the world-wide jobs market.

Video: Would Michael Gove have been please with this years results?

I would add one caveat, though. In the exam boards’ open letter to schools and governors, they singled out as one of the reasons for the drop in top grade passes the switch to the so called “facilitating subjects”, which give you the ideal leg up to a place at one of our leading universities.

Overall, despite the drop in the percentage pass rate, the numbers getting good grades in these subjects - because of the increased take-up - still shows a positive picture. However, I would caution schools not to push too many pupils into STEM subjects if they find the going hard and are better equipped to study something else.

Also, it is worth pointing out that the rosy picture of take-up identified by this year’s AS-level results indicates the importance of that half-an-A-level exam. If it is decoupled from A-levels as the Government plans, fewer students will get the opportunity to find out the subjects they are best at half-way through their sixth-form course - and thus concentrate on them in final A-level year.