A-level increase in maths and science is good news for economy, says EEF

The increase in the number of students passing science and maths at A-level may mark a welcome turning point for the UK economy, according to manufacturers’ organisation the EEF.

The A-level results showed a 7.5% rise in the number of pupils taking maths A-Levels – 64,593 compared to 60,093 in 2007. Further maths was also up by 15.5% to 9,091.

In sciences, biology was up 2.7%, chemistry up 3.5%, and physics up 2.3%.

Andrew Smith, EEF education and skills adviser, said: “The increased uptake of maths and science at A-level may be an indication that the tide of declining numbers of young people studying these topics has turned. They may also reflect an increased focus by students on their future employment prospects given the grounding provided by a background in science and maths.”

But Smith warned that the improvement in participation rates must feed through to increases in the number of people continuing to progress in engineering, maths, and science subjects at higher levels.

Schools minister Jim Knight said: “More pupils are now passing maths A-level than at any time in over a decade. It’s crucial for society that we have talented mathematicians, and maths is essential for science and innovation.”

However, the news was tempered by a survey of 142 recruiters , which collectively interview thousands of school leavers each year.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation research found that almost all respondents (92%) rated the performance of school leavers as average or below average, raising concerns that the education system is not equipping students with the skills to succeed.

A lack of communication skills, unrealistic expectations and poor work ethic have been cited as the key employer complaints with school leavers looking for a job. Hard skills also came under fire, with 56% of the recruiters interviewed highlighting a lack of basic numeracy and literacy skills.

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