A Level and GCSE results highlight alarming regional inequalities across country: Beckie Hart

The events of the last few weeks have been cause for celebration for many students across Yorkshire and Humber, including in my own household, as they received their A level, T level and GCSE results.

It’s not been an easy period for pupils across the UK. The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted their studies at unprecedented scales, adding uncertainty to what’s already a challenging time for many. And the return to pre-pandemic grading has made it more difficult to achieve top grades in comparison to previous years.

Yet, students and teachers persevered, showing great resilience and grit in the process.

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On A levels, we’ve seen a growth in students deciding to study social sciences, with maths remaining a popular choice amongst young people.

Tom Benton (left) and Finlay Dunn receives their A-level results at Langley School in Loddon, Norfolk.Tom Benton (left) and Finlay Dunn receives their A-level results at Langley School in Loddon, Norfolk.
Tom Benton (left) and Finlay Dunn receives their A-level results at Langley School in Loddon, Norfolk.

It was good to see the success of those subjects – teaching students skills that are in demand with CBI members – many of them their future employers.

Meanwhile, many GCSE students picked vocational subjects like computing and business studies, while entries to languages, arts and design took a hit. Employers are keeping a close eye on the decline in subjects like Design and Technology.

A continued downturn in those areas could hamper efforts to reduce skills shortages in areas like product design and engineering in the long run.

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Other elements of this year’s results are sure to have given firms pause for thought too, as both A level and GCSE results point to worsening regional inequalities.

Beckie Hart has her say.Beckie Hart has her say.
Beckie Hart has her say.

The gap between the performance of students in the North and students in the South – a trend already apparent in 2022 – has further widened this year.

London and the South East were the highest-performing regions when it came to A level results – with the North East and the Midlands seeing a lower share of top grades overall.

Amongst this year’s GCSE graduates, the difference in results between pupils who do not receive school meals and those who do has widened too.

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And despite years of rhetoric on spreading opportunity across the UK, we’re yet to see tangible action, giving chances to young people everywhere.

Levelling up has to be more than a slogan – and this year’s results – be that A levels or GCSEs – further illustrate the disparities faced by many.

Equally, there’s progress to be made when it comes to raising awareness of alternative pathways to success.

This year, the second cohort of students completed their T levels. But awareness of the qualification remains low – particularly amongst employers.

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Earlier this year, the CBI’s Education and Skills survey showed that a whopping 65 per cent of CBI members had only little or no awareness of the Government’s ‘flagship’ programme.

Given pronounced concerns about the availability of the work placements needed to complete T levels, that needs to change.

Businesses, keen to hire and develop young talent know the importance of strong educational foundations.

As we approach the start of a new term – both in Westminster and at school – we need turn words into action and tackle the impact that regional differences have on young people and their future.

Beckie Hart is CBI regional director for Yorkshire and Humber