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Independents widen top A-level grade lead

PRIVATE schools increased their share of top A-level grades this year while state schools narrowed the gap in pass rates between the two sectors.

More than a third of private school A-level entries were awarded A grades this summer, more than twice the national figure of 17.8 per cent.

The 1.2 per cent increase in A grades in the private sector was four times greater than the rise in the top grade nationally, according to provisional results from 514 schools published by the Independent Schools Information Service.

More than 60 per cent of entries got either an A or B, compared to 37 per cent nationally.

Meanwhile, the independent school pass rate increased by just 0.4 percentage points to 96.7 per cent. Nationally the pass rate increased by 0.6 percentage points to 89.1 per cent, the second smallest rise in the past decade.

The figures also revealed that the top-ranking boys' schools enter pupils for more exams than the equivalent girls' schools.

Girls' schools achieved the best results per exam entry - winning eight of the top places. St Paul's girls', in London, achieved the top results for its 95 sixth-formers with more than 91 per cent of A-level entries graded A or B.

However, boys' schools take the top three places if their results are ranked by the university admission points per candidate, because boys are entered for more exams.

Elizabeth Diggory, High Mistress of St Paul's girls' school, said: "I would always argue for quality rather than quantity. Clever students can probably manage five or more A-levels. The issue is whether they are getting a full and rounded education on top of the A-levels they need. "

"I would always argue for three or maybe fourA-levels plus extra curricular activities which broaden students' education and sometimes contribute to the quality of their results."

The analysis by ISIS (which represents 1,300 schools and 80 per cent of private-sector pupils) does not include general studies entries because the subject is not offered by every school.

Earlier this year independent schools were accused of lagging behind grammars and losing their lead over other state schools in terms of the proportion of pupils getting at least three A-level passes. An analysis of government figures showed 85 per cent of independent school pupils got at least three A-level passes last summer compared to 87.7 per cent from selective state school pupils. The independent school figure remained stable while the state school pass rates continued to improve, said educational analyst John Howson. However, ISIS believes the continual improvement in the quality of A-level passes is more significant than a plateauing pass rate.

For full tables see the TES website

Top 5 by total points per pupil

Winchester college, Hampshire Boys: 32.76

Westminster school, London

Boys with mixed sixth form: 32.65

St Paul's school, London

Boys: 31.61

North London Collegiate, Edgware Girls: 30.80

St Paul's school, London

Girls: 30.78

Top 5 by points per entry

St Paul's school, London

Girls: 9.19

Withington school, Manchester

Girls: 9.18

North London Collegiate, Edgware Girls: 9.12

Wycombe Abbey school, Bucks Girls: 9.05

St Paul's school, London

Boys: 9.04

Key: A=10 Universities and Colleges Admissions Service points, B=8 pts, C=6 pts, D=4 pts, E=2 pts

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