A-Level Results: UK Business Community Reaction

A-level gradesToday 335,000 students in England, Northern Ireland & Wales learned their A Level results and, for the first time in 20 years, the numbers for top grade passes have fallen. A and A* grades are down from 8% in 2011 to 7.9%.

However, the overall pass rate this year is 98%, up from 97.8% in 2011 and is the 30th consecutive year that the pass rate has risen.

Neil Bentley, the Confederation of British Industry’s Deputy Director-General, congratulated today’s A-Level graduates but expressed particular concern at the fall in language passes with French down by 5.2% and German falling even further by 7.6%

Speaking about the "rigour" of A-levels, Bentley said:

“A-levels are the academic peak of the schools system and they are an invaluable benchmark for employers when recruiting. Businesses support the Government’s plans to underpin the stretch and rigour of the exams which will help retain their status.”

But with the possibility that the school leaving age could be raised to 18 within the next two years, with students being given the option to either go into A-Levels or a more vocational path, Bentley commented on the need to develop quality alternatives for those not following the A-level track:

“With more employers looking to hire at 18 – often through innovative ‘learn-while-you-earn’ schemes – the Government should listen to business views to ensure exam reforms help better prepare young people for work and life.”

More can be seen in the CBI’s Edcuation and Skills Survey 2012 (Learning to Grow: What Employers Need from Education and Skills)

EEF, the manufacturers’ association, also had a viewpoint on today’s A level results from the employer’s perspective with CEO, Terry Scuoler, saying there were not enough students studying mathematics, the sciences and tech-related subjects:

“It is widely acknowledged that students qualifying in these topics at whatever level are in short supply. This is leaving key sectors of our economy such as manufacturing which we are relying on for growth and, which rely on high skills, struggling to meet their needs.”

Scuoler mirrored the CBI’s business opinion, adding:

“It is also vital that those students who do not get the appropriate grades consider the vocational route to a degree through an apprenticeship, rather than struggling through clearing to fill places on courses which neither employers or our economy need.”

The Forum of Private Business (FPB) also revealed small employers’ attitudes toward training and skills, releasing their Training and Skills Member Panel Report (August 2012) to coincide with today’s A-level results.

Colating the experiences of small firms, the FPB’s report recommended, amongst other things, that education institutions should forge closer ties with small businesses, particularly in local communities, to identify business needs and better prepare students for work.

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