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A Word from the Chair

Posted on: 29 Sep 2015
Posted by: Barnaby Lenon

Barnaby Lenon, Chairman of the Independent Schools Council, discusses this year’s outstanding A-level results.

Once again Independent Schools Council (ISC) schools candidates have achieved excellent grades in this year’s A-level results. An impressive one in fourteen independent school candidates achieved three A* grades and half of entries at ISC independent schools achieved A* and A grades, nearly double the national figure.

How did they do it?

In part it is because many of our pupils have supportive parents who encourage their children to do well. Pupils are motivated to work by the knowledge that their parents are making a big financial sacrifice. Independent schools have high expectations of their pupils and push the weakest students to work harder and more effectively. The ‘tail’ of pupils with poor results is therefore much smaller in independent schools.

Independent school pupils disproportionately choose the subjects that Russell Group universities require, including Modern Foreign Languages, Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. What is more, they achieve a high proportion of the top grades in those subjects.

Independent schools can choose the qualifications and exams that they judge are right for their pupils. It is interesting to note that there has been an eleven per cent rise this year in the number of pupils taking the Extended Project Qualification (the EPQ), while nationally the numbers have increased only marginally. The EPQ is an independent piece of work, usually an essay of about 5,000 words, carried out by the pupil on a topic of their choice. It shows evidence of commitment, independent thought and skills at independent research and extended writing. While it is not required by universities, it is an impressive demonstration of commitment to a subject and more importantly, will considerably develop and extend the student in preparation for the move to university.

Independent schools can also choose alternatives to A-levels if they think that is best for their pupils. There have been rises this year in the number of pupils taking the International Baccalaureate, which offers breadth of study into the sixth form, and the Pre U, which offers a demanding two year linear course.

Independent schools employ teachers who are highly qualified specialists in their subject, who can impart their enthusiasm and love of learning to pupils. Schools promote a culture of high expectation and achievement which supports the academic aspirations of students. Students are taught to organise their study time, apply themselves with discipline and cope with the stress of examinations.

ISC schools also offer 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, so important when students enter the real world of work and life.

Many of our schools are keen to share this experience and expertise and some, such as the King’s College School, Wimbledon or the City of York Partnership, have shared revision classes and university preparation advice with local state school students to support their university chances too.

This article first appeared in Private Schools magazine (page 6).

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About Barnaby Lenon

Barnaby Lenon is Chairman of ISC.