First fall in 21 years for A grades

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The proportion of A-Levels scoring at least an A grade has fallen for the first time in more than 20 years, official figures showed today.

In total, 26.6 per cent of the exams were given an A or A*, down from 27% in 2011 – a record drop of 0.4 per cent.

It is believed to be the biggest fall in the history of A-Levels. The last time it dropped was between 1990 and 1991 when it decreased to 11.9 per cent from 12 per cent.

The pass rate at A grade also stalled in 1996 and 1997, when 15.7 per cent of exams were awarded at least an A.

Today’s figures, published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), also show that fewer A-Level exams achieved an A* this year.

Around one in 12 (7.9 per cent) exams were given the top grade, which is awarded for the third time this summer, down from 8.2 per cent in 2011.

Boys overtook girls at A* grade for the first time, with eight per cent of boys’ entries attaining the top mark, compared to 7.9 per cent of girls’.

Today’s figures also show that the overall A* to E pass rate has risen for the 30th year in a row.

Some 98 per cent of exams achieved at least an E, compared to 97.8 per cent last year.

Around 335,000 students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are receiving their A-Level results today.

But while many will be celebrating, others still face a scramble to secure a university place.

Initial figures from UCAS show almost a seven per cent drop in the numbers of students who have already had their places confirmed.

Michael Turner, director of the JCQ, which represents exam boards, said: “Today is about celebrating the successes of our young people and recognising the hard work that has gone in to achieving these results.

“They, and their teachers, can be proud of their achievements.

“The STEM subjects continue to rise, with mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics all in the top 10 most popular subjects.

“Over the next few years, it will be interesting to see if, with the existence of the English Baccalaureate, the continued decline in students taking a foreign language is reversed.”