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ISC Year 13 Exam Results 2015

One in fourteen independent school candidates achieve three A* grades.

Posted on: 22 Aug 2015
Categories: Exams
  • One in fourteen independent school candidates achieve three A* grades
  • A high proportion of pupils at independent schools in the North have achieved the A* grade, bucking national trends that show students in the North performed significantly worse in the top grades than those in the South East
  • There are rises in the number of students taking IB, Pre-U and EPQ qualifications. For example there are 11% more pupils completing EPQ than last year.

Other key findings:

  • Half of entries at ISC independent schools achieve A* and A grades, nearly double the national figure
  • 19% of entries at ISC independent schools achieve an A* grade, compared to 8.% nationally

View Exam Results 2015 data

Independent Schools Council (ISC) schools candidates have achieved the very top grades in this year’s Year 13 results.

One in fourteen independent school candidates have been awarded three A* grades or equivalent. That’s a total of 2,607 pupils or 7% of pupils.

Half (49.3%) of all entries at A-level at ISC independent schools have achieved A* or A grade. There are now over 3,200 pupils taking the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) and there are rises in the numbers of pupils taking Pre-U and the International Baccalaureate (IB) this year.

ISC schools include a wide diversity of schools, some selective, many non-selective. They are strong at the traditional facilitating subjects that Russell Group universities require, including Modern Foreign Languages, Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology as well as History and Geography. As independent schools, they have the freedom to choose the best curriculum and qualification for their pupils and have pioneered the IB, Pre-U and Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) in this country.

Schools expect hard work and commitment from pupils and have high aspirations for them. Teachers are often highly qualified specialists in their subject, as demonstrated in the recently released Sutton Trust report, who can impart their enthusiasm to pupils.

ISC schools offer an excellent academic education combined with a rich co-curricular life of sport, CCF, debating, music and drama and many other activities. ISC schools focus on building character and skills such as teamwork and leadership. They foster good self-esteem and self-confidence. There is a broad diversity of pupils at ISC schools including 29% from minority ethnic backgrounds.


This year’s A-level exam results from 34,747 candidates at 484 Independent Schools Council (ISC) schools.

The proportion of entries from ISC pupils achieving at least an A* grade was 18.5%. This compares to a national average of 8.2%.

The proportion of entries from ISC pupils achieving at least an A grade was 49.3%. Nationally 25.9% of entries were awarded at least an A.

34,747 pupils, representing 93.5% of the Year 13 ISC cohort, at 484 schools, took at least one A-level. 99.2% of all entries (106,120 out of 106,999) received pass (A*-E) grades (national average 98.1%)

Regional variations

Nationally significant regional gaps exist in achievement.

According to JCQ figures, only 6.6% of A-level entries in the North East were awarded an A* versus 9.7% in the South East.

For ISC schools, this gap was much narrower. 16.3% of entries in ISC schools in the North achieved A* compared to 19.5% in the South East.

Other Qualifications

ISC schools have the freedom to choose from a range of different qualifications to best suit their pupils and two thirds of ISC schools choose some mix of qualifications for their pupils. This year there have been some significant rises in the uptake of these.

Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)
There is an 11% rise in the number of pupils taking EPQ from last year. 3,203 pupils (8.6% of the Year 13 ISC cohort), at 275 schools, took the EPQ this year.

International Baccalaureate (IB)
There is a 7% rise in the number of pupils taking IB from last year. 2,045 pupils (5.5% of the Year 13 ISC cohort), at 59 schools, took IB exams this year.

There is a 10% rise in the number of pupils taking Pre-U from last year. 1,516 pupils (4.1% of the Year 13 ISC cohort), at 49 schools, took at least one Pre-U this year. Between them, they took a total of 2,348 Pre-Us.

696 pupils (1.9% of the Year 13 ISC cohort), at 53 schools, took at least one BTEC. This represents a 31% rise versus last year.

Analysing A-levels or equivalent

The vast majority of our pupils take A-levels but many pupils take other qualifications and receive grades that can be considered equivalent, according to higher educational bodies.

The proportion of entries from ISC pupils achieving ABB or equivalent, (based on equivalence determined by HEFCE tables), was 55.3%. That is 20,554 pupils.

One in fourteen candidates achieve three A* grades (or equivalent). This equates to 7.0% of all pupils, based on UCAS tariff tables (and other official sources).

Barnaby Lenon, Chairman, Independent Schools Council (ISC), said:

“Independent schools can be very proud of their pupils’ excellent exam results, with half of their A-levels being graded A* or A, nearly double the national figure. What is remarkable is the number of candidates achieving three or more A* grades, one in fourteen pupils.

“Independent schools continue to be strong across the country, with many schools in the North achieving the top grades, when national figures show that schools in the North are performing significantly worse than those in the South East.

“A high proportion of the independent schools A-levels are in the traditional subjects such as Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Modern Foreign Languages, some of which are in decline nationally. Many top university departments offering these subjects are dependent on independent school pupils for the quality of applicants they seek.”

Julie Robinson, General Secretary, ISC, said:

“These results reflect the hard work and dedication of pupils and the exceptional level of teaching and support in independent schools. ISC includes a wide range of schools, both selective and non-selective and all provide young people with a bespoke education. Alongside a strong set of A-level results, schools continue to value their freedom to choose alternative qualifications, including the IB, Pre-U and the Extended Project Qualification.”

Case Studies of top performing schools

1. Over a quarter of Wycombe Abbey pupils will take up Oxbridge places

Over a quarter of the schools’ Upper Sixth students will take up Oxbridge places and the majority will go onto prestigious Russell group universities.

Almost 40.9% of all the grades scored at Wycombe Abbey were at A*and 83.9% were A*, A.

Sixteen pupils at the high performing girls’ boarding school in Buckinghamshire have scored three A* grades in this year’s A-level results. A further four pupils scored 4 A* grades.

87 girls sat A-levels at Wycombe Abbey this summer. Of these, 53 took Maths (percentage of year group = 61%), 13 Further Maths (15% of year group take a Further Maths A-level), 16 Physics, 21 Biology (25%), 18 Chemistry and a further 20 – 25% take a Science A-level either with other STEM A-levels or Humanities subjects.

Rhiannon Wilkinson, headmistress, said:

"I am absolutely delighted with these results. Wycombe Abbey girls consistently achieve some of the best public examination results in the country, with a third of the year group regularly taking up Oxbridge offers and all go to leading universities in the UK and across the world. Their exceptional co-curricular achievement is as impressive as their academic results showing a symbiotic relationship between the two; excellence in one area fosters excellence in others".

Pupil case study: Fencing captain Laura Bishop achieved 4 A* grades in Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Geography. Laura was a boarder at Wycombe Abbey and she will study Engineering at Bristol this year.

Laura said:

“When I first saw my results I had to re-read them a few times just to check my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me! It was so wonderful to see that every hour of revision and every class had been well worth it in the end.

“I want to go into the technology industry because I really want to have a positive impact on the world, and I truly believe that technology gives us the best chance at dealing with current and future problems. Ideally I’d love to be designing electronic devices that can help marginalised people in particular, for example farming technologies or low-cost telecommunication technologies.”

Contact: Kerri Fox: 07887 608422, foxk@wycombeabbey.com

2. Thirty pupils achieve 3 A*s at Latymer Upper School, London

Over thirty students achieved 3 A*s and seven achieved 4 A*s at this leading London co-educational day school.

Over 70% of all results were A* and A grades, with over 60% of students achieving at least one A* grade. Over 100 students took four A-levels or more, and the average UCAS points per candidate was equivalent to over three A* grades per student.

Both the Head Girl (Megan Husain) and Head Boy (Ben Clarke) achieved more than 3 A*s. Megan heads to Oxford to study English and French while Ben will take a gap year before studying English and Classics.

This year over 20 students will be heading to Oxbridge, while sixteen pupils have accepted places at prestigious North American Universities including Princeton and Stanford.

Head, David Goodhew, commented:

"I congratulate the class of 2015 on their well-deserved success. I am delighted that so many will be going to their choice of course at top universities in the UK, and increasingly, the US and Canada. Not only has this year group excelled academically, but they have been equally impressive in sport, music and drama, demonstrating the roundedness that we aim for at Latymer Upper. I warmly commend their teachers, whose dedication and skill has helped to make these results possible.”

Pupil case study: TV actress and Latymer pupil Anna Burnett has achieved 3 A*s and an A in her A-levels in French, English, Drama and Photography. Having starred in the film ‘The Falling’, she has most recently featured in BBC One’s series ‘Ripper Street’.

Anna said:

“I’m really happy to have got my predictions at A-level and that I have been accepted to study English at King’s College London next year. I’m very grateful to Latymer for believing in the arts and allowing me to pursue my career at the same time as doing my A-levels. On my gap year I plan to develop my acting, starting with filming the next series of ‘Ripper Street’.”

Contact: Susan Bartholomew: 020 3004 0405, smb@latymer-upper.org

3. A quarter of subjects achieve A* at Northern school, The King’s School, Chester, bucking national trends

Independent schools have bucked the national trend that shows students in the North performed significantly worse in the top grades than those in the South East.

According to national figures, only 6.6% of candidates in the North East were awarded an A* versus 9.7% in the South East.

But at independent schools in the North, the proportion of pupils achieving the A* grade is much higher.

At The King’s School, Chester over a quarter of all subjects were graded A*.

40% of King’s students gained all A*/A grades in every subject and almost 60% achieved the university “gold standard” of AAB grades.

The girls at King’s performed exceptionally well with 29% A* grades, 72.3% A*/A grades and 93% A*/B grades.

William Blacklock of Waverton and Victoria Walker of Guilden Sutton gained five A* grades and Laurence Ankers of Huxley achieved four A* grades. Students received seven offers for Oxbridge and 90% have been offered places at a Russell Group University.

The King’s School is a co-educational independent school founded in 1541, educating children from 7-18 years old. The school’s catchment area is wide and includes Chester, Cheshire East and West, North Wales, Wirral, Warrington and Shropshire.

Chris Ramsey, Headmaster and chair of HMC Universities Committee said:

“Whilst JCQ results are showing schools in the north performed proportionately worse than the average for the country, the results at King’s remain strong and are, if anything, tending to improve year on year with the proportion of students going to top courses at top universities.

“We are obviously proud of our students’ successes and I believe it is down to their hard work, of course, and their being inspired to learn – not just pass exams – by great teachers. We are adamant that a love of learning is our real goal.”

Pupil case study: This year’s Upper Sixth has four sets of twins who together gained a grand total of 26 A-level passes including 9 A* and 13 A grades.

Twins Eleanor and Kate Robson received one A* and two As each and are heading off to Durham, Eleanor to study Philosophy and Kate to study Politics.

Ellie Robson said:

“I believe the key to the success of any student is stimulation by genuinely passionate individuals such as the teachers at King's. King’s provided me with an invigorating community and teachers who not only invested in my success but also inspired in me a genuine interest in the subjects I am going to study through higher education.”

Contact: Vicky Titmuss: 01244 689488, vickytitmuss@kingschester.co.uk

4. Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School continues to score top grades for Modern Foreign Languages, despite the national decline in pupils taking languages

90% of language A-levels entries achieved either A* or A at Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School.

The school focuses on the more traditional and rigorous A-levels such as Modern Foreign Language courses and sciences which are under threat in many Sixth Form Colleges. National results released last week showed there was a decline in the numbers of pupils taking most Modern Foreign Languages, apart from Spanish.

But Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School in Crosby, Merseyside, is particularly strong in language culture and starts early, offering Spanish to their four year olds. By Year 6 girls are also studying French or German and in Year 7, Latin is introduced as a foundation for many other aspects of the curriculum.

Ensuring that each girl continues with at least one language to GCSE is essential to cultivate an ethos of recognising the importance of studying other languages. At GCSE, the school's record of achieving top grades is excellent, but at A-level the school's results are outstanding.

To ensure engagement in languages the girls have foreign exchange visits with students from overseas, language days, themed lunches, European cafe and overseas work experience. They also have a link with EdgeHill University and their Chinese Centre by teaching mandarin and extra-curricular activities. The school recently won a government grant to work and share its subject expertise with a local primary school through the teaching of Mandarin language and Chinese culture. The Independent/State Schools Partnership (ISSP) intends to reach 800 state pupils over two years.

Pupil case study: Dual linguist, Kate Nagy, has just achieved excellent A-level results of three A grades and will be going to UCL to read Spanish and Latin American Studies. This year Kate undertook her work experience in a business in Gibraltar. She hopes to follow a career in translation.

Headmistress, Louise Robinson, said:

"In recognition of the global village it is important that the study of languages is an essential part of education. We have to enable our girls to take their place in the world on an equal footing to those countries where it is natural to speak two or more languages."

Contact: Michaela Riches: M.Riches@merchanttaylors.com

5. 100% bursary pupil wins a place at Cambridge to study Computer Science

Fairooz Islam (18) has won a place to King’s College, Cambridge this September after she achieved four A*s in A-level Chemistry, Physics, Maths and Further Maths, as well as an A in Biology at Manchester High School for Girls.

The ambitious student from Longsight, one of the most deprived areas of Manchester, has received a 100% bursary place (£10,638 per year) throughout her school years.

Fairooz will be undertaking a degree in Computer Science and is passionate about artificial intelligence, robotics and biological modelling.

Fairooz said:

“I am so excited to be continuing my studies at one of the best universities in the world and am looking forward to discovering what my area of expertise will be. Manchester High, and the belief the teaching staff have had in me, has played a huge part in my success. I received a bursary as there was no way my family could have afforded the school feels. This school has given me the confidence to aim high and really fulfil my dreams.”

Fairooz’s talents have not gone unnoticed by Manchester’s business community. UKFast, one of the country’s leading cloud computing firms, founded by entrepreneur Lawrence Jones, has invited Fairooz to undertake a summer work experience placement at the company.

Aaron Saxton, Director of Training and Education at UKFast, commented:

“Places on our work experience scheme are hotly contested and this year’s scheme was full. However, when we met Fairooz, we just knew we had to find a place for her. “There is a widening skills gap in the tech industries and we’re particularly interested in the qualities that women bring to our teams. It’s fantastic that there are girls, like Fairooz, that want to seize this opportunity.”

Fairooz’s parents, Mrs Laila Arjumannessa and Mr Mohammed Islam, a pharmacy technician, said:

“It may be true that our daughter is talented, but the high standard of education and care provided by Manchester High School for Girls is what really helped her to achieve her full potential. Due to our low income we thought that it would be impossible to find a school that would be able to support her properly. The bursary the school gave her has changed her life altogether.”

Claire Hewitt, Head Mistress at Manchester High School for Girls, said:

“Everyone at Manchester High is proud of our diverse and vibrant school. We strongly believe that enriching our classrooms with girls from a variety of backgrounds, who all have differing perspectives, is key to maintaining the very special atmosphere of Manchester High.

“Every year we are faced with a number of girls that have the ability to secure a place here but whose family simply lack the financial means. Our Pankhurst Bursary Appeal is vital in helping keep our doors open to these girls. The fact that this year’s Senior Sixth have secured the best A-level results in our history leaves me in no doubt that these young women are the leaders of tomorrow.”

78% of grades at Manchester’s oldest girls’ school were the sought-after A* or A; with 98% of all grades attained in the A* to B range. Six girls are taking up places at Oxbridge. Bursaries:

  • Almost 10% of Manchester High pupils receive fee assistance, with around 5% of pupils paying no fees at all (£10,638 per year) and receiving support with uniform, lunches, school trips.
  • The Bursary Appeal has raised over £1.5 million to date and has supported 73 girls.
  • ISC schools are keen to widen access to their schools and give over 41,000 pupils help with their fees, valued at an average of £8,227 per pupil per year. Over 5,400 pupils pay no fees at all.

Contact: Nina Marttila: 0161 224 0447, nmarttila@mhsg.manchester.sch.uk

6. Freedom to choose qualifications: Why Portsmouth Grammar School offers the IB

Independent schools value the freedom they have to choose the best curriculums and qualifications for their pupils. Independent schools have pioneered alternative qualifications such as the International Baccalaureate, the Pre-U and Extended Project Qualification in this country.

The Portsmouth Grammar School introduced the International Baccalaureate (IB) in 2009 to offer pupils a choice between the traditional specialism of A-level and the combination of specialism with breadth - and internationalism - offered by the IB Diploma.

James Priory, Headmaster, said:

“The appeal of choosing IB was in part because an increasing number of pupils were reluctant to drop subjects following GCSE. At 16 years old, many are genuinely unsure of what their future direction will be and the IB helps them to keep more doors open, and develop a fuller range of skills.

“The greater breadth of IB is particularly important in encouraging pupils to sustain their study of Modern Foreign Languages, Maths or Science post-16, which they can do at IB at either the standard or higher level. In the future, with A-level, there is likely to be a greater narrowing of the curriculum as pupils concentrate on three linear A-levels. IB has also provided some stability within the Sixth Form provision in times of transition; it is reassuring for pupils and parents to know that changes will be brought through by professional educators after due consultation.

“Almost 100 IB Diploma pupils have now passed through our Sixth Form. The feedback we receive from them is that they feel better equipped for independent study at university.”

Pupil case study: Jemima Carter was one of two pupils at the school this year to achieve 45 points at IB. This is a historic first for the school and a fantastic achievement for the pupils; only 208 pupils achieved the maximum 45 points from the 120,000 that took the IB worldwide.

Jemima has been able to sustain her creative and musical interests through the CAS element of IB whilst still being able to specialise in the science subjects necessary to gain a place to study Medicine at King’s College London; she also studied French at Higher Level.

“My primary reason for choosing the IB was my desire for subject variety - I always knew I would be studying sciences and maths to go on to medical school, but the IB meant that I could continue with the humanities and languages which I had always loved just as much,”

says Jemima.

Contact: Elisa Linley: 02392 364229, e.linley@pgs.org.uk


Press queries

For more information, please contact: Tracy Cook, Head of Press, Independent Schools Council.
020 7766 7062 (office)
07825 806017 (out of hours)
Or email tracy.cook@isc.co.uk

Notes to editors:

Year 13 exam results ISC provides data on the achievements of year 13 pupils (upper-sixth formers) including grades by entry at GCE A-level; AS-level examinations not taken at full A-level; and Pre-U, International Baccalaureate (IB), BTEC and the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ).

Data for Applied and Non-Applied subjects are given in aggregate form at A-level and AS-Level.

There is no aggregation of grade information into UCAS points.

View Exam Results 2015 data

A final database of all results (taking into account re-marks and additional returns) will be issued in December.

Value-added contribution to GDP

Recent studies have highlighted the link between educational performance and economic output at a national level. Applying these studies to the performance of pupils at ISC schools in Britain results in an estimated additional annual contribution to GDP of £1.0 billion. Scaling up for the entire independent sector produces an estimated additional annual contribution to GDP of £1.3 billion.

ISC schools in Britain contribute £9.5 billion to the economy, slightly larger than the City of Liverpool or the BBC; generate £3.6 billion in tax and support 227,200 people in employment.

View Economic Impact Report 2014

Independent Schools Council

The Independent Schools Council (ISC) brings together seven associations of independent schools, their Heads, bursars and governors. These collectively represent nearly 1,300 independent schools in the UK and overseas, educating more than half a million children each year.