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Economics and psychology up, art down

Economics is now one of the 10 most popular A-level subjects in the UK – with maths leading the way, followed by psychology.

There were more than 39,000 entries for the qualification this summer, according to new figures – up 7.3 per cent on last year.

It is the first time economics has gained a spot in the top 10 – taking ninth place overall, ahead of physics and pushing geography out of the list.

The new figures, published by the Joint Council for Qualifications also show a surge in popularity for computing – it has seen the biggest increase in take-up this year (16.7 per cent ), compared to other subjects.

Jill Duffy, chief executive of the Oxford and Cambridge and RSA (OCR) exam board, said: “We can only hypothesise today, but I would say we saw a big increase in economics, we also saw a big increase in computer science.

“I think what this is showing is students are thinking about their future and they’re absolutely thinking about the skills they need to get a good job.”

Professor Ulrike Tillmann, chair of the Royal Society’s Education Committee, said: “It is very exciting to see a significant increase in the number of computing entries, with a 16.7 percentage points rise to more than 18,000.

“However, the proportion of boys taking computing far outweighs girls at 85 per cent; the Royal Society would like to see measures taken to encourage more girls to choose this valuable subject to prepare them for future opportunities.”

She said a Royal Society report published in 2017 made recommendations for teachers to receive more support and training in computer education, and as a result the National Centre for Computing Education was set up in 2018.

“The significant rise in the number of A-level students taking computing this year could very well be because of this investment,” Prof Tillmann said.

“There has also been a general trend in recent years of young people recognising the value of computing for their future careers.”

(Image: iNews)

A subject breakdown of A-level entries for England, Wales and Northern Ireland shows that maths remains the most popular subject, with an increase in entries.

In total, there were 96,852 entries for the subject.

Rishi Sunak has repeatedly stressed the importance of pupils studying maths throughout secondary school.

In April, the Prime Minister announced that he would appoint a team of specialists to draw up a strategy for making the subject mandatory for all pupils until they are 18.

England lags behind Singapore, China, Korea, Japan in mathematic performance at secondary school level, according to the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement.

Russia, Ireland, Lithuania, Israel, Australia, Hungary and the US also came ahead of England, which was ranked 13th, the 2019 study of eight graders (13-14) found.

Social sciences continue to be popular at A-level, with psychology in second place and sociology sixth – the same as last year.

As well as physics, both biology (third) and chemistry (fourth) also retain spots in the top 10 most popular subjects – a list that is dominated by the sciences rather than the arts.

Prof Tillmann said: “We are pleased to see that chemistry, biology and physics remain in the top 10 most popular A-levels as these subjects are vital to tackle some of society’s biggest issues, including infectious diseases, climate change and biodiversity loss.”

English literature fell out of the top 10 for the first time last year after it saw the biggest drop in candidates for a single subject.

This year, that has reversed with a slight increase in popularity, although not enough to secure the qualification a top 10 spot.

The other most popular subjects this year were history (fifth) and business studies (seventh). Art and design subjects (eighth) sustained a degree of popularity, though entries fell this year.

Meanwhile, languages continue to fall in popularity – German saw the biggest drop for a single subject with more than 1,000 entries, falling by 15.9 per cent from 2,803 in 2022 to 2,358 this year.

There were also falls in entries for both Spanish and French.

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