Press release

Wellcome Trust comment on the 2013 A-level results

Students in England, Northern Ireland and Wales have today received the results of their A-level examinations. The number of students taking A-level sciences and mathematics has risen again this year.

Sir William Castell, Chairman of the Wellcome Trust, says: "Science and maths underpin the high-tech and scientific industries critical to our future prosperity, so it is wonderful to see the surge in uptake of these subjects at A level over the past five years.

"An important part of this turnaround has surely been the emphasis on professional development for teachers and technicians. Science never stands still, and if we are to inspire and equip the next generation of scientists, we must provide opportunities for our educators to keep apace."

The continued rise in the number of students taking science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects follows a long period of decline - thought to be related to shortages of teachers with the necessary skills and knowledge.

In 2003 these concerns led to the founding of a network of Science Learning Centres across the country, funded by the government and the Wellcome Trust. Subsequently, in 2008, they led to the launch of Project ENTHUSE, which provides bursaries for teachers to attend continuous professional development training courses at the National Science Learning Centre.

A 2012 Expert Review concluded that the courses offered at the National Science Learning Centre are outstanding and have positive impacts on teaching quality, pupil attainment and teacher retention. The 10 000th ENTHUSE award was made in July 2013, and two-thirds (67 per cent) of secondary schools have benefited from them.

According to the Wellcome Trust Monitor, an independent nationwide survey, the factor that 14- to 18-year-olds most commonly identified as having encouraged them to learn science was "having a good teacher" (58 per cent), and the most commonly selected factor for discouraging them from learning science was "having a bad teacher" (43 per cent).