The number of UK students sitting for an A Level in Religious Studies (RS) in June 2012 was 3.2 per cent more than in June 2011, maintaining the steady upward trend since the early 1990s, albeit the rate of growth was smaller than in 2010-11 (when it was 4.9%).
This is according to the tables of A Level results issued by the Joint Council for Qualifications, representing the seven largest providers of qualifications in the UK, on 16 August 2012, and available at:
The total number of RS A Level candidates in June 2012 was 23,042 or 2.7% of the entries for all subjects, 0.1% more than in 2011. This makes RS the fifteenth most popular examination subject at A Level, within spitting distance of economics and well ahead of political studies and ICT/computing.
However, it remains a somewhat ‘feminized’ subject, with females accounting for 68.3% of candidates, compared with 54.1% for all subjects. This is unsurprising, given that women still continue to score more highly than men on most indicators of religiosity.
Females were also more likely to achieve grades of A*, A, B or C in A Level RS than males, 81.4% against 77.9%. The combined figure for these four grades at RS was 80.3%, rather more than for all subjects (76.6%), which some may interpret as an indication that A Level RS is a relatively ‘soft’ option.
The number of candidates achieving grades A*-C in RS was highest in Northern Ireland (88.1%), with 80.5% in Wales and 79.3% in England. On the other hand, Northern Ireland only registered an increase of 1.2% in RS entries between 2011 and 2012, while Wales recorded 13.5%. Results for Scotland are published by the Scottish Qualifications Authority.
In absolute terms, AS Level RS is more popular than A Level, with 33,654 candidates in the UK in June 2012, although this figure was 0.8% down on 2011 and represented a lower proportion (2.5%) of all subject entries than was the case at A Level. AS Level RS was only marginally less likely (67.6%) than A Level disproportionately to attract females.
The long-term trend for A Level RS numbers is still hard to predict. While some believe that the Government’s exclusion of the subject from the eBacc will ultimately have a negative impact on the appeal of RS at A Level, the growth in the non-Christian population, especially among the young (which the 2011 census is expected to reveal) will doubtless act as a counterweight.