GCSE results day 2021: Private schools' top-grade jump

Outcomes for the highest grades have risen most in private and free schools, while students on free school meals' attainment gap widened

Catherine Lough

GCSE results day 2021

Private schools and free schools have seen the largest absolute increases in top GCSE grades this year, Ofqual's data reveals today.

At grade 7/A and above, outcomes are higher than 2020 to the greatest extent in private schools, with a 4 percentage point rise, while free schools have also had a rise in their proportion of top grades by 3.6pp.

At the 4/C pass rate, the differences compared with 2020 are greatest for FE colleges (up 5.3pp) and sixth-form colleges (up 4.9pp).

More on this year's GCSE results:

In relative terms, the largest increase at grade 7 is for sixth-form colleges, with a 50.8 per cent rise, while the smallest relative increases were seen at grammar schools (a 4.2 per cent increase) and private schools (7.1 per cent).

table centre typeMeanwhile, analysis of today's data shows that poorer students in England who are eligible for free school meals (FSM) have dropped further behind their more privileged peers at GCSE.

Ofqual said that there has been a slight widening of the "long-standing results gap" between students in receipt of FSM and those who are not, by around one-tenth of a grade compared with 2019.

The exams regulator suggested the widening gap could be a reflection of the "uneven impact" of the coronavirus crisis.

Adjusting for prior attainment, today's results also show a slight rise in the gap between white and Gypsy and Roma students, by a fifth of a grade.

Sir Keir Starmer said inequality had been "baked in" to exam results after the gap grew between private and state schools.

The Labour leader told broadcasters: "For Gavin Williamson and the government, on the issue of tackling inequality, they just got a U, and I think that is completely unacceptable."

Ofqual's report says that exam boards "found that, irrespective of the type of school or college, the grades were usually supported by the quality of students' work".

"The changes may therefore reflect the uneven impact of the pandemic which will have been lessened by the assessment arrangements. It is also worth noting that more able students might be more capable of independent study."

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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