Headteachers are urging the Department for Education to investigate the regional variations in this year’s A-level results, after figures revealed a 7 percentage point gap in top grades between the South East of England and the North East.
The Association of School and College Leaders is asking the government to look into the reasons for the disparity. Yesterday’s A-level results show that 29.1 per cent of entries in the South East gained an A or A*, compared with just 21.9 per cent in the North East.
Yorkshire and the Humber and the East Midlands also gained far fewer top grades than the South East, with 22.5 per cent and 22.6 per cent respectively.
“The variations are significant,” said Malcolm Trobe, the ASCL's deputy general secretary.
“We’d like the Department for Education to see whether there are reasons behind that variation, because if there are clear causes then action needs to be taken.”
Mr Trobe said he did not want to “jump to the conclusion” that the variation was caused by patterns of deprivation. “It could be much more complex than that,” he said.
“It could be that able students in some regions are not taking A-levels, and are instead going on to apprenticeships and vocational programmes or going directly into employment.”
Mr Trobe said that different school structures in different regions might have contributed to the variation. The South East had a higher proportion of 11-18 schools than other regions, he said, whereas other regions tended to have more sixth-form and FE colleges.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “This year’s A level students are among the best qualified in a generation. Thousands more pupils from all backgrounds across the country are studying subjects that will secure them a place at a top university or an apprenticeship and that will help to secure well paid employment.
“This Government is determined that every young person, regardless of birth or background, receives an education that allows them to realise every ounce of their potential. Pupils in the north should be extremely proud of their achievements. The north east got the highest proportion of passes nationally, the north west saw improvements in A* and A’s, and in Yorkshire and Humberside there were also increases in the number of overall passes.”
Government sources also noted that the Chancellor had announced £10m this year to support "the expansion of the very best academy chains in areas of the north with the weakest provision".