Increase in top grades at A-level
London, Aug 17: More than one in four UK A-level entries were awarded the top A grade this
year, results show.
Figures from the exam boards showed 25.3% of entries were graded A, up from
24.1% last year.
The improvement in A grades in independent and grammar schools over the past
five years has been double that in state comprehensives.
The national pass rate rose for the 25th year in a row, with 96.9% graded A
to E, up from 96.6% last year.
Girls continued to outperform boys in every major subject except for modern
foreign languages and further maths.
Statistics published by the Joint Council for Qualifications relate to more
than 800,000 A-level entries and more than 1.1 million AS-levels.
About 310,000 candidates have been getting their individual results, mostly
in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, some 50,000 of them online.
Looked at over the five years since the Curriculum 2000 changes to the form
of A-levels were made, the proportion of entries from independent and selective
schools awarded an A has increased by about six percentage points.
This was double the rate of improvement in the majority of state schools.
The difference was revealed by the director general of the biggest board,
AQA, Mike Cresswell, who dismissed suggestions that exams were getting easier.
He said the improvements were down to improved teaching and learning.
Why are private schools doing so well?
Dr Cresswell added: "Whatever the usual grumpy old people want to say about
how it was much harder in their day we want to say the students have done very
well, they are a success story and we should be proud of them."
And he reminded people that less than a tenth of candidates achieved three A
grades, representing just 3% of 18-year-olds.
The top two subjects in terms of popularity were English and maths, with
maths continuing its upward trend. Entries in maths were up 7.3% this year while
those in further maths rose 8.3%.
There was also a small rise in the numbers of people taking chemistry and
physics but a slight fall in biology.
Entries in modern foreign languages were largely stable. There was an
increase in entries for German and Spanish but a decrease in those for French.
There were marked differences between subjects in the grades awarded: with
43.7% of maths A-levels given an A grade compared with 14% of those in media
"What that tells you is that there are differences in how good those
candidates are at those subjects," Dr Cresswell said - no-one would suggest that
maths was somehow easier.
The biggest percentage increase in entries, from a small base, was in
The chief executive of the OCR exam board, Greg Watson, said it provided the
sorts of skills in weighing information and evaluating arguments that were
sought by both universities and employers.
The Liberal Democrats are calling for an independent review of A-levels but
this has been ruled out by the government.
Schools Minister Jim Knight said one had been carried out three years ago and
it was a "real shame" the annual debate about standards undermined pupils'
He said: "I warmly congratulate students and teachers on these excellent
"Sustained progress in A-level results over the last decade is down to high
quality teaching and strong investment in our schools."