A-Level Results Day: More girls taking STEM subjects in 2021

Students receive GCSE results at Becket Keys Church of England School, results day, exam results

There has been a 5.79 per cent increase in female students taking STEM subjects in 2021, with increases across all key STEM subjects such as Computing, Maths, Biology and Chemistry.

As students across the country collect their A-Level results, data also shows A-Level maths female students overtook male students for the first time in the number of A* grades achieved – with 29.1 per cent getting an A* compared with 28.5 per cent of male students. Furthermore, more than one quarter of female students achieved an A* in Computing this year, up from 17.8 per cent in 2020 and 3.7 per cent in 2019.

However, male students still significantly outweigh female students taking maths, further maths and physics; and despite Computing seeing a 20 per cent increase in the number of girls last year, this has since fallen to a 13 per cent increase in 2021.

The results follow a second year of teacher-assessed results, after exams were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students were assessed only on what they had been taught and were assessed on multiple pieces of work, giving them their best possible chance to show what they can do.

There was also a quality assurance process in place, with all grades being checked by schools – and one in five schools having a sample of their grades checked by exam boards – helping to give students, parents, colleges, universities and employers confidence in grades.

Agata NowakowskaSpeaking on A-Level results day, Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President EMEA, Skillsoft said, “With exams cancelled for a second year running, 18 months of lockdowns and homeschooling, and the day itself having been brought forward to allow time for students to contest grades – A-Level results day undoubtedly looks a little different this year.”

“However, behind the usual backdrop of celebrations and commiserations, echoes the shared sentiment: “we made it through”.

“In the UK, entries from women and girls to STEM A-levels have increased by over a third in the last 10 years.”

“It’s fantastic that this year’s A Level results show a continued upward trajectory, with a 5.79 per cent increase in female students taking STEM subjects.”

“Continued education and action has been instrumental in inspiring this increase.”

“So too has the ever-growing list of female role models pioneering change.”

“Just look at Wally Funk, the trailblazing pilot who, having been denied the job of astronaut in the 1960s over her gender, last month, aged 82, fulfilled her dreams by becoming the oldest person to travel into space.”

“She is just one of the many women breaking through the glass ceiling (or earth’s stratosphere) to show that STEM is a place where girls and women can thrive.”

“Championing leading females in the world of STEM is key to driving gender parity and changing the mindset that STEM industries are the domain of men.”

“In every classroom lies the potential for the next big breakthrough, discovery or cure – we mustn’t alienate half the room and risk untapped talent going to waste.”

“We need girls in STEM and they need our continued support.”

“Let’s keep the momentum going!”

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International Women and Girls in Science Day

A-Level results paint a positive picture for girls in STEM

International Women and Girls in Science Day, girls in STEM

As over 300,000 students collect AS, A level and vocational and technical qualification results, the results paint a positive picture for girls in STEM.

Statistics show there was a 21.8 per cent increase in the total number of girls taking Computing. There has also been a 4.8 per cent increase of girls taking Maths and Further Maths, ahead of the overall increase of 2.5 per cent and three per cent respectively in students taking them this year.

Although Chemistry and Biology have both seen a decrease in overall students taking them, the number of girls have decreased less - 4 per cent of girls vs 6.4 per cent of boys in Chemistry; and 4.3 per cent of girls vs 8.7 per cent of boys in Biology.

Speaking about the increase in girls taking STEM subject, Debra Danielson, Chief Technology Officer & SVP of Engineering at Digital Guardian said, "Whilst its encouraging to see a slight increase in the number of girls taking Computing, Maths, and Further Maths, the disproportionate number of girls sitting A-level science subjects this year shines a light on how far we as an industry have to go."

"There are serious pipeline problems in getting girls and young women to be interested in tech, engineering and STEM."

"We have problems attracting and keeping female university students interested in computer science."

"We have problems recruiting and hiring enough women, retaining women beyond mid-career in tech, keeping women in tech careers and not shifting them out."

"We have pay parity and promotion equity problems and we have to constantly fight pervasive expectations that women aren’t as technical as men."

"At Digital Guardian I’m fortunate to be surrounded by an amazing and diverse team."

"I never want to work again in an organisation where I’m the “odd man out,” and I’d love it if all women had the opportunity to experience this in their careers - from the classroom to the boardroom.”

This year's A-Level results show a rise in top grades, despite the unprecedented circumstances

Grades have remained broadly stable with a 2.5 percentage point rise in A and A* grades at A level, and a 0.7 percentage point rise in overall passes (A*-E), helping students take their next step.

Speaking on A-Level Results Day, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said, "Receiving your results is always a huge moment, particularly this year after the disruption caused by coronavirus and the uncertainty that came with it, and I hope all students can take pride in their achievements."

"I know how difficult it was for students to find out that they were unable to sit an exam."

"It wasn’t a decision that was taken lightly."

"The majority of young people will have received a calculated grade today that enables them to progress to the destination they deserve, with the added safety net of being able to appeal on the basis of their mock results, as well as the chance of sitting autumn exams, thanks to our triple lock process to ensure confidence and fairness in the system."

"I want to congratulate all students, and thank parents, teachers and everyone involved in education for their contribution to making sure all of our young people are able to progress with the next stage of their lives."


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Proportion of women studying Computing rises to 13.3 per cent

women in computing, teacher, STEM

The proportion of women studying Computing A-Levels has risen to 13.3 per cent, according the new research.

The study, conducted by Ensono, found that although the number of women taking Computing has doubled since 2013, it remains unequal. In 2019, 9,649 males took Computing A-Levels, while only 1,475 females did.

The research also found that there has been a five-year increase in students taking STEM subjects. STEM subjects include Biology, Chemistry, Computing, Further Maths, Maths and Physics.

Further to this, there has been a five-year decrease in arts subjects of 20 per cent. Art subjects include English, Drama, Art & Design, Media/Film/TV studies and Religious Studies.

Speaking about the research, Oliver Presland, Vice President of Global Product Management at Ensono said, "More students than ever are achieving STEM A-Levels, with a nine per cent uptick in these subjects over five years."

"Computing has been no exception and it’s especially encouraging to see the proportion of women taking the subject has doubled since 2013."

"However, it’s worth pointing out that in Computing, the gender balance is still highly skewed towards men, with 9,649 and 1,475 entries for males and females respectively."

"More will still need to be done in this regard to encourage women into the space."

"With the UK in the midst of a digital skills gap, increased uptake of Computing A-level represents positive news for the industry."

"Lack of appropriate skills currently presents a major hurdle to business growth and innovation, and has hindered the UK’s competitiveness."

"As the Fourth Industrial Revolution ushers in far-reaching economic and societal changes, the world of work is evolving with new roles demanding new, digital capabilities."

"Youngsters need to be able to flourish in this dramatically different environment, and students today seem to be acknowledging those changes in the subjects they’re choosing.”