Image: Oxford University
Private schools in the United Kingdom have once again demonstrated their consistent excellence in A-level results, outperforming state schools by a significant margin. This year's data reveals that private institutions continue to lead the way in academic achievement, with nearly half of all A-level entries from private schools achieving grades of A or A*—a remarkable 47.4 percent. In contrast, just 22 percent of entries from comprehensive schools reached this level of academic success.
The Independent Schools Council (ISC) recently published data analysing private schools' performance, shedding light on those institutions that have excelled in obtaining the highest proportion of top grades. Notably, Cardiff Sixth Form College has upheld its reputation as the top-performing independent school for A-level results. This co-educational boarding school achieved an impressive 95 percent success rate with A or A* grades for its 2023 entries.
Joining Cardiff Sixth Form College among the top-performing institutions are Oxford International College, a sixth form college in Oxford; The Cathedral School in Llandaff, Cardiff; Highgate School in London; and Guildford High School in Surrey. These schools have consistently demonstrated their commitment to academic excellence and continue to produce outstanding A-level results.
In light of concerns about grade inflation, England's examination regulator, Ofqual, took steps to address the issue by instructing exam boards to return to 2019 grading standards this year. This decision followed a period of grade inflation during the pandemic when traditional exams were cancelled. In contrast to other parts of the UK where grading standards are expected to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024, England implemented this change to ensure the integrity of the grading system.
While many independent schools outperformed their pre-pandemic results, it's important to note that more than a third of schools in the ISC's report recorded a decline in the percentage of top grades compared to 2019. Specifically, at 66 schools, the share of A and A* grades awarded this year was lower than in 2019.
Several leading girls' schools also experienced declines in the proportion of entries achieving top grades. Schools like Alderley Edge School for Girls in Cheshire, Shrewsbury High School in Shropshire, and Newcastle High School for Girls saw a decrease of more than 30 percent in the share of entries achieving A and A*s compared to 2019.
While the data shows a mixed picture of performance across independent schools, it's clear that private schools, as a whole, continue to excel academically.
This year's A-level results reaffirm the academic prowess of private schools in the UK. Despite challenges and changes in grading standards, these institutions have maintained their commitment to excellence in education. As education consultants, we recognise the importance of staying informed about these trends to guide students towards the best educational opportunities available. If you're seeking expert advice on educational options or academic planning, our consultancy is here to help you make informed decisions that align with your goals and aspirations.