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Numbers taking both AS and A level GCE art and design in 2016 have shown a continued and significant decline


As predicted the numbers of candidates taking art and design GCE have continued to significantly decline.

This year the total number of GCE AS-Level candidates has fallen sharply from 62,375 in 2015 to 41,545, a decrease of 20,830 art and design candidates. This represents 3.5% of the total number of candidates sitting GCE AS-Level and compares to 4.5 per cent in 2016. Whilst other subjects have also seen a decrease in AS-Level candidates, it is significant that art and design is reported to have seen a 33.4 per cent decline in candidates, with only AS-Level Critical Thinking having a bigger percentage fall. (JQC, GCE Trends 2016).

The total number of GCE A-Level candidates has fallen by 1,622 candidates. In 2015 a total of 44,864 took the exam, this year the total number has fallen to 43,242 candidates. This represents only 5.2 per cent of the total number of students sitting GCE A-Level, the lowest cumulative percentage in ten years, since 2006.

The gender gap and art & design: A-Level the overall cumulative percentage of candidates achieving an A* grade has increased this year, from 11.8 to 12.2 per cent. The increase can be attributed to more female candidates attaining the higher grades, 12.3 (2015) to 12.7 per cent this year. This contrasts with the attainment for male candidates, which has flat lined at 10.4 per cent in the last two years.

At AS-Level the overall cumulative percentage of candidates attaining an A grade has also increased, from 21.5 (2015) to 22.1 per cent this year. Female candidate attainment increased by 0.4 per cent (from 23.4 to 23.8 per cent) but a greater increase of A grades, 1.5 per cent, was awarded to male candidates (from 16.0 to 17.5 per cent). This indicates a slight but welcome reduction in the male/female attainment gap.

For both A- and AS-Level, between 2015 and 2016, there has been no change in the ratio of male and female candidate numbers. At A-Level 24 per cent of candidates are male and 76 per cent are female; At AS-Level 26 per cent are male and 74 per cent female. According to JQC’s entry trends (http://www.jcq.org.uk/examination-results/a-levels/2016/entry-trends-gender-and-regional-charts-gce-2016) only four other subjects have a greater gender divide in male/female candidate uptakes.


The Society remains highly concerned but unsurprised at the continued and significant decline in AS and A-Level numbers for art and design in 2016. The evidence from The NSEAD Survey Report 2015-16 provided a stark warning of the direct effects of government policy on our subject and the choices available for young people at level 3.

The AS and A-Level results of 2016 confirm our findings and our continued commitment to challenge the barriers to engagement in art and design in this context. The Society will be communicating directly with the Secretary of State and Minister of State for Education about the continued and predicted decline in take up in art and design. The Society will also continue to implement strategies to overcome the gender divide in candidate uptake.

This must not detract from celebrating the achievement and commitment of all our dedicated teachers of art and design and young people gaining AS and A-Level qualifications in art and design. A massive well done to everyone and we hope that what you and your students achieve in and through our subject will stand in good stead as you move forward into your careers.

Figures are as reported by the Joint Council for Qualifications.

18 Aug 2016