Feeds

A-Level figures hint at physics recovery

Is science on the mend?

Boost IT visibility and business value

It is summer, and the newspapers are full of the inevitable pictures of happy blonde teenage girls celebrating their A-level results.

This year, more than one in four of the results was an A grade. This will undoubtedly trigger renewed debate about falling standards, and prompt questions about how universities should go about differentiating the truly gifted from that top-scoring 25 per cent.

But as predictable as all this is, there is one subject that is, at last, bucking its recent trend. According to the Institute of Physics (IoP), for the first time in 20 years, the number of A-level and AS-level physics candidates has risen, very slightly, and the number of girls taking the exams has risen slightly faster.

Overall, the number of candidates for A-level physics has risen a sliver: just 0.35 per cent from last year. The number of girls taking the subject rose by 2.5 per cent. AS-levels in the subject have done better, with rises of 3.2 per cent and 4.2 per cent respectively.

Dr Robert Kirby-Harris, chief executive of the IoP, said the numbers are very encouraging and suggest that the message is beginning to get through.

"Physics underpins the solutions we will need to meet today's key challenges to society – climate change, energy supply, sustainable housing, and efficient transport  – and physics graduates work right across the economy in well paid interesting careers, including making a major contribution to the City and finance sector," he said in a statement.

Although the numbers are up year on year, we still have some way to go to repair the damage of the last decade. In 1995, 35,000 students took A-level physics. This year, there were 27,000. Still a substantial difference.

The Royal Society said the subject was still on "the critical list", despite the slight upturn.

"In actual terms, we're looking at just 98 more people taking the A-level compared to last year. We need more evidence before we can conclude with confidence that this is the beginning of a recovery," said the society's president, Martin Rees.

It is a mixed bag for the other science subjects: biology is down, but maths and chemistry are on the up.

Rees notes: "The decrease in students taking A-level biology is not hugely concerning at this stage. However, we should keep the subject under surveillance. The focus on physics and chemistry should not allow biology's health to deteriorate unnoticed." ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
LOHAN packs bags for SPACEPORT AMERICA!
Spanish launch goes titsup, we're off to the US of A
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?