Examination Results 2023

21 September 2023

Some comments on the results in Religious Studies which may have slipped under the radar at the time in August

On GCSE Results 2023

  • RS is still 7th on the list of most taken subjects at GCSE, which is encouraging, as is the fact that, broadly speaking, the numbers have remained steady in recent years;
  • Nonetheless there is a noticeable fall of 18%, around 50,000 candidates, since 2016;
  • Whilst short course RS is not dead – there were nearly 25,000 entries – it has cataclysmically dropped since 2014, by around 100,000; the entry has also fallen by 7,000 from 2022 – about a quarter in one year;
  • None of this would be improved by ‘worldviews’: the EBac situation, Progress 8 not referring to any short course and the short course’s no longer being used in performance tables – these are the major obstacles for the once-popular short course, which also served as a route into AS and A Level (AS level entries have fallen from around 40,000 in 2016 to fewer than 1,000 this year);

So it seems Government reforms, especially those instigated under Michael Gove, have caused the massive decline in overall examination entries in RS which, following the Dearing Report and its implementation in 2000, led to such a time of prosperity for the subject.

We should not be disheartened however: our task is to support and encourage high-quality teaching and learning and to use such influence as we have to promote the restoration of the subject’s value at qualification levels, for this is the breeding ground for the next generation of teachers.

On A Level Results 2023

The entries this year show a drop of 13%since 2019, according to the JCQ. (https://www.jcq.org.uk/examination-results/?post-year=2023&post-location=) , overall, 9% in England. Deeply worrying, granted the overall drop since Gove: it’s a 35% drop since 2016, the last year before Gove affected entries.

The campaign needs to be to restore the vitality of the previous AS/A Level system – other ’minority’ subjects have similarly suffered – and to recruit good honours graduates into school-based PGCE/QTS qualification and/or University-based training. I’m pleased the REC has seen the need for teacher recruitment as a response to this (https://religiouseducationcouncil.org.uk/2023/08/fall-in-a-level-rs-entries-sees-calls-for-action-for-specialist-teacher-recruitment/ and https://religiouseducationcouncil.org.uk/2023/07/dear-gillian-keegan/ ) but it is only a partial response, as the fundamental problem is a system which discourages A Level in the subject, and thus university placements. A shift to ‘Worldviews’ is a complete irrelevance.

It is impossible to put a brave face on these figures, though the sterling efforts of A Level teachers, and their students, this year, often against the odds, deserve praise, especially in the increase in top grades