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
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: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/ceds20/current.
The DOI of the final publication is: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03055691003729161
- achievement gaps
- A-level attainment
- science education