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English literature has dropped out of the top 10 most popular subjects at A-level for the first time.

It saw the biggest drop in candidates for a single subject with more than 1,000 entries, falling by 9.4% from 39,492 in 2021 to 35,791 this year.

The figures on Thursday, as , came after a headteachers’ union warned that urgent action was needed to “stop the spiral of decline” in the popularity of the subject.

A-levels 2022: why English literature at A level has become less popular - and what Edexcel said about it

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It comes as hundreds of thousands of pupils across England, Wales and Northern Ireland got results on Thursday, having

A-level grades received by UK students are down on the past two years but remain higher than pre-pandemic levels.

A-levels 2022: why English literature at A level has become less popular - and what Edexcel said about it

Students received their A-levels results on Thursday. English literature has dropped out of the top 10 of subjects for the first time.

Why has English become less popular?

The increase in the popularity of geography managed to push English literature out of the top 10.

Derek Richardson, vice-president of Pearson UK, which owns exam board Edexcel, said the interests of students change over time.

Mr Richardson, who said as an English literature graduate he recognises “the importance of the subject”, added: “English literature has been in the top 10 for as long as we looked back and so this is the first time that we’ve seen it drop out of the top 10.”

He said it is “clear that students today are interested in following different subjects than subjects that I was taking when I was doing my A-levels”.

He added: “So things that students are interested in studying changes over time and that seems to be what’s happening at the moment.”

The top five subject rankings by popularity are unchanged this year with maths, psychology, biology, chemistry and history remaining the top choices for students.

The rest of the top 10 is made up of sociology, art and design, business studies, physics and geography.

A-levels 2022: why English literature at A level has become less popular - and what Edexcel said about it

Students received their A-level results on Thursday. Pictured are pupils from Norwich School with their results.

What has been said about its decline in popularity?

Earlier this week, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, welcomed the rise in interest in other subjects, but said he had “severe concern” about English literature’s decline, blaming for “putting students off” continuing it to A-level.

He said: “Literature is a vital part not only of our cultural past, but of our diverse cultural present, and it should be a living, breathing subject which inspires and empowers young people.

“The GCSE specification needs to be urgently reviewed and action taken to stop the spiral of decline we are seeing at A-level.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said the Government had reformed GCSE and A-level in English language and literature “to be more rigorous and better prepare pupils for further study and employment”.

A-levels 2022: why English literature at A level has become less popular - and what Edexcel said about it

It was the first time exams were sat since the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: David Jones/PA Wire/PA Images.

How did students find studying during the pandemic?

A teenager who is preparing to start a BBC apprenticeship said studying through the Covid-19 pandemic was a “nightmare”.

As he collected his A-level results at Norwich School, James Livesey, 18, said: “I feel very relieved. It’s a big weight off my shoulders.”

The pupil, of Norwich, achieved an A* in computer science and As in physics and maths.

He said of studying during the pandemic: “It’s been a nightmare.

“Honestly, 2020 was just such a different kind of learning environment and everything and it did throw a spanner in the works.”

Grades in 2020 and 2021 were based on teachers’ assessments, with this year marking a return to public exams.

“It’s a bit of a weird difference considering I’d never really done exams before in such an official capacity, but I think I was fine with it in the end,” said Mr Livesey.

“As the results show, I’m really glad.”

He said his grades were enough for his first choice university, Southampton, but he then got an offer for a degree apprenticeship at the BBC doing software engineering on websites and other platforms.

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