A levels: Private schools get far larger A/A* rise

Independent school A-level entries with A/A* goes up 4.7 percentage points compared to 1.2pp for grammars and 2pp for comprehensives

Catherine Lough

Private schools: Richard Backhouse has been appointed chair of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference

The proportion of A-level grades at grade A and above has seen a rise at private schools this year more than double any type of state school, Ofqual data reveals.

It shows that the percentage of A levels scoring an A or A* rose by 4.7 percentage points in independent schools this year, from 43.9 per cent in 2019 to 48.6 per cent in 2020.

This rise is more than double that of any seen in the state sector. In comprehensives, the proportion of pupils achieving the top grade rose by 2 pp, in academies by 1.7 pp, and in grammars by 1.2 pp.


A levels 2020: 


Carl Cullinane, a researcher at social mobility charity The Sutton Trust, said the data was "eyebrow-raising".

He said the disproportionate increase in top grades at private schools could either relate to their "generally higher rate of As in the first place" or because their smaller class sizes helped them escape the statistical moderation process.

Subjects with entry numbers of 15 pupils or lower had teacher-assessed grades taken into account in the grading calculation, while subjects with entries of 5 pupils or fewer were allowed to keep their teacher-assessed grades. 

However, not all private school pupils felt the rise applied to their school. Student Ben Robson commented: "I go to a private school and we’ve been absolutely destroyed by this, 50 per cent of our A* students have been downgraded and 20 per cent of our As have been downgraded, 60 per cent of our student body has been taken down one or two even three grades."

The figures only relate to schools with A-level candidates in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

A level grades by school type

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

Latest stories