A levels: Private schools open up gap despite U-turn

Rise in A* grades at A level is far higher in the independent sector, data shows

Amy Gibbons

Exam hall

The rise in the proportion of A* grades awarded to private school candidates this summer was nearly double the increase seen in the state sector, even after Ofqual's controversial algorithm was scrapped, new figures show.

Provisional data released by the Department for Education (DfE) this morning reveals that, while all school types saw an increase in the proportion of A-level grades awarded at A* compared with last year, the rise was far higher in the independent sector.

Ofqual's algorithm for assigning results after exams were cancelled because of the Covid-19 crisis came under fire earlier this year, when it was revealed that private schools saw a far bigger boost in the proportion of top grades.


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But today's data shows the gap in top results achieved by candidates at private and state schools widened even after the algorithm was binned in a shock U-turn.

The figures show the proportion of A-level grades awarded at A* this summer rose by around 11 percentage points at independent schools, compared with 6 percentage points at state schools and 4 percentage points at both sixth-form and other FE colleges.

In its commentary published today, the DfE stated: "Both state-funded and independent schools saw considerable increases in the proportion of entries awarded A* grades at A level: state-funded schools increasing from 6.7 per cent to 12.9 per cent (just over 6 percentage points) in the last year, but still a smaller increase than independent schools (circa 11 percentage points).

"For both, the proportion of A* grades had fallen the year before that (from 2017-18 to 2018-19). It's a similar story for the top A*-A grades combined, where increases were bigger for independent schools than state-funded schools over the last year."

It added: "In contrast, very few A levels failed to result in a passing grade in 2019-20 in either state-funded schools (0.4 per cent) or independent schools (0.2 per cent), and non-passing grades were also lower than in previous years."

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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