Staying in the science stream: patterns of participation in A-level science subjects in the UK

Emma Smith

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    17 Citations (Scopus)
    53 Downloads (Pure)


    This paper describes patterns of participation and attainment in A-level physics, chemistry and biology from 1961 to 2009. The A-level has long been seen as an important gateway qualification for higher level study, particularly in the sciences. This long term overview examines how recruitment to these three subjects has changed in the context of numerous policies and initiatives that seek to retain more young people in the sciences. The results show that recruitment to the pure sciences has stagnated, general trends have hardly varied and the track record of government policy in influencing change is not strong. There is no evidence for increasing achievement gaps between the sexes at A-level and even national policy requiring that all young people study science up to the age of 16 appears to have had little impact on recruitment at this level
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)59-71
    Number of pages13
    JournalEducational Studies
    Issue number1
    Early online date6 May 2010
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011

    Bibliographical note


    This is an electronic post-print version of an article published in Educational Studies Vol. 53, No. 3 (2003): 282-295. Educational Studies is available online at:
    The DOI of the final publication is:


    • achievement gaps
    • A-level attainment
    • science education


    Dive into the research topics of 'Staying in the science stream: patterns of participation in A-level science subjects in the UK'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this