Some thoughts on the A level results

I have been able to take some time to reflect on the A level results published last week, and the way they have been received.

We can see a very stable set of results here. The headlines were a 0.3 percentage point drop in the proportion of A and A* grades, and the overall A to E pass rate went up slightly, by 0.1 percentage points.

The changes in the results themselves are small. They perhaps reflect the trends in choices being made by students, ever more aware of the need to target their efforts towards the subjects favoured by universities.

There is a lot of talk now of 'the end of grade inflation'. That is welcome. It does no one any good to have doubt and suspicion cast over the achievements of young people because of constant and unexplained rises in the pass rates.

But I would add this. It is not the result of tougher new standards being imposed.. It is the result of a determined effort to carry forward standards from one year to the next.

That is the job Parliament has given Ofqual as the qualifications regulator for England. It is one we take very seriously.

Another theme to come out of the A level results was the continued concern about the smaller proportions getting the top A* grade in Modern Foreign Languages compared to other subjects. This is something that we at Ofqual have already committed to looking at closely, to see what the reasons may be and what we can do to make sure these subjects are as consistent as possible with others.

It does not mean making them 'easier'. But it may be there is something about the qualifications, the way they are structured or assessed, that is contributing to this.

I welcome the announcement by exam boards that they also want to look at this, and I look forward to talking to them about their work.

I do hope everyone looking at the results published yesterday can recognise the importance of the fact that standards have been maintained, and what it means for the confidence and trust people can place in those qualifications. We have already talked about some of the issues there will be on Thursday in interpreting the GCSE results, for example because of the changes in entry patterns. But with GCSEs our underlying approach is exactly the same as with A levels: we use every tool we can to maintain standards year on year so that everyone can have confidence in that the grades young people achieve reflect their achievements.

Over time, we want to build up trust in our approach. Last week was a good step forward, and I hope this week will be too.

Glenys Stacey
Chief Regulator


  1. Judith williams

    Glad you have time for defensive blogging. Any chance of a decision on changes to current English GCSE before term starts?

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    • Ofqual

      Ofqual has now made an announcement on Speaking and Listening assessments in GCSE English and English language, which can be found here.

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