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Independent school pupils score a high proportion of the top grades at A-level and are more likely to take traditional subjects such as modern foreign languages, maths and science.

The independent schools sector punches above its weight in scoring A* and A grades

Posted on: 15 May 2014

It is crucial in supporting subjects that are deemed strategically important but vulnerable (SIV), such as modern foreign languages and in STEM subjects, such as maths and science.

In modern foreign languages, pupils at independent schools are over two and a half times more likely to take French and Spanish A-levels and are more than twice as likely to take German A-level, as pupils at other schools or further education colleges.

And nearly half of pupils at independent schools take Maths A-level, compared to less than a third of pupils at state schools or Further Education colleges, according to new research from the Independent Schools Council.1

Candidates at independent schools also score a higher proportion of the top A* grades. In French and Spanish, pupils from independent schools form just 28% of the entries at A-level, but win around half the A* grades.

In Maths, Physics and Chemistry, pupils from independent schools form less than 20% of the candidates at A-level, but win a third of the A* grades.

This higher academic attainment of pupils at independent schools contributes an estimated £1.3 billion per year to the UK’s GDP, once these pupils enter the job market.2 There is a clear link between educational attainment and economic growth and independent schools provide a valuable support for the STEM and SIV subjects which the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) deem to be vital to the UK’s competitiveness and growth.

Professor Sir Michael Sterling, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham and former Chairman of the Russell Group, said:

“It has long been the case that the independent schools sector delivers proportionately more students with better STEM related A-levels than the state sector: without these well qualified applicants many university STEM courses would face serious recruitment difficulties.”

Barnaby Lenon, Chairman of the independent Schools Council, said:

“Independent schools are free to choose their own curricula and qualifications and they value the traditional subjects and understand their importance. It is no surprise that a high proportion of independent school pupils’ A-levels will have been achieved in the traditional subjects such as Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, ancient and modern languages. It is also no surprise that our pupils gain a high proportion of the top grades. Many top university departments offering these subjects are dependent on independent school pupils for the quality of applicants they seek.

“Independent schools offer a rigorous and thorough academic education, based on an expectation of high standards, exceptional levels of teaching and support and an encouragement of pupils’ hard work and dedication. ISC includes a wide range of schools, both selective and non-selective, but all provide young people with a bespoke education.”

Subjects

45.9% of candidates take Maths in the independent sector, compared to 28.6% of candidates in the state sector or at Further Education colleges.

In French, 8.1% of candidates at independent schools take the A-level, compared to 3.1% in other schools and FE colleges. In Spanish, 5.5% of candidates at independent schools take the A-level compared to 2.0% at other schools, while in German, 2.6% of A-level entries are from independent schools compared to 1.3% at other schools.

In other modern foreign languages, such as Russian, pupils at independent schools are over five times more likely to take A-levels, with 9.7% taking other modern foreign languages, compared to 1.7% at other schools.

In Physics, 18.6% of pupils at independent schools take the A-level compared to 11.2% at other schools and in Chemistry, 25.3% of pupils at independent school take the A-level, compared to 17.0% at other schools.

In Biological Sciences, 26.0% of pupils at independent schools take the A-level, compared to 21.3 at other schools and colleges.

Grades

The A-level performance of pupils at independent schools in 2013 was very strong, with pupils at independent schools winning a high proportion of A* and A grades.

In Modern Foreign Languages, independent school pupils continue to win a higher proportion of these top grades, showing to what degree they are propping up these SIV subjects and keeping them viable.

In French, pupils from independent schools formed 27.8% of the entries at A-level, but were awarded 48.1% of the A* grades and 39.5% of the A and A* grades.

In Spanish, pupils at independent schools form 28.5% of the entries at A-level, but win 50.8% of the A* grades and 42.3% of the A and A* grades.

In German, pupils at independent schools form 23.2% of the entries at A-level, but win 41.7% of the A* grades and 36.1% of the A and A* grades.

In STEM subjects, independent school candidates also win a high proportion of the top grades.

In Maths, pupils from independent schools formed 19.4% of the entries at A-level, but won 33.1% of the A* grades and 28.0% of the A and A* grades.

In In Physics, pupils from independent schools formed 19.9% of the entries at A-level, but were awarded 34% of the A* grades and 29.8% of the A and A* grades.

In Chemistry, pupils from independent schools formed 18.2% of the entries at A-level, but were awarded 32.8% of the A* grades and 28.0% of the A and A* grades.

In Biological Sciences, pupil from independent schools formed 15.4% of the entries at A-level, but were awarded 31.8% of the A* grades and 26.4% of the A and A * grades.

Ends

Notes to Editors

Independent Schools Council

The Independent Schools Council (ISC) brings together eight associations of independent schools, their Heads, bursars and governors. These collectively represent over 1,200 independent schools in the UK and overseas, educating more than half a million children each year. For more information please visit the ISC website: www.isc.co.uk

For all press enquiries:

Please contact the Press Office at ISC.

Tracy Cook, Head of Press, ISC Tel: 020 7766 7060 Out of hours: 07825 806017 Email: tracy.cook@isc.co.uk

To see more details of the research click here.

Footnotes

1) Figures are based on A-level results from the Department for Education for 2013 and cover all schools and further education colleges in England.

2) The impact of independent schools on the British economy. A report prepared for the Independent Schools Council by Oxford Economics. April 2014.

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