Year 13 exam results show breadth of education

Posted on: 25 Aug 2018

The quality of the broad education offered by UK independent schools is evidenced by this year’s exam results, with figures published today by the Independent Schools Council (ISC) showing more students following different pathways post-GCSE.

Independent schools have, in recent years, seen an increase in students taking alternative Year 13 qualifications such as BTECs, which are specialist work-related qualifications that are also valued by universities. The number of schools offering BTECs has almost doubled in three years – from 53 in 2015 to 93 this year.

The number of young people taking the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), which involves a student researching a topic before writing either a 5,000 word report or creating a 'product' along with a 1,000 word report, has also nearly doubled in the same period – rising to 6,318 this year, from 3,203 in 2015.

Schools in membership of ISC associations recorded another impressive set of results in the reformed A-levels in 2018, with the proportion of entries achieving the top A* grade remaining more than double the national average. The new figures also reveal almost half (47.0%) of A-level entries at schools within association membership received either an A* or an A.

This year’s results data shows consistency in the proportion of students achieving at least ABB – a set of results desired by many of the top UK universities. The number this year stands at 54.1%.

Full exam result details will be available to view at

This year’s Year 13 results, which have been collected from 499 ISC schools (representing 37,212 candidates), reveal:

  • The proportion of pupils getting three A* grades or equivalent stands at 7.4%
  • The percentage of entries getting an A* at A-level is 17.7%, more than twice that of the national average, which is 8.0%.
  • Close to half of A-level entries at ISC schools received either an A* or an A. At 47.0%, this is almost double the national average of 26.4%.
  • There was an increase in candidates taking the EPQ (+25.2%), Pre-U (+22.5%), and BTEC (+16.8%) qualifications compared to last year.
  • The average points score for pupils taking the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma was 36, roughly equivalent to 4.5 As at A-level. In the IB, 2% of pupils obtained 45 points, the highest mark, which is only achieved by 0.3% of candidates worldwide.

Barnaby Lenon, ISC chairman, said: “Ultimately, schools want to provide an education that best meets the needs of each pupil. It is therefore hugely beneficial to students that independent schools are looking at a diverse range of routes for them to take, including vocational.

“It is only right that schools support young people and enable them to access the pathways through which they can fulfil their potential and maximise their employability – whether it’s the traditional university route, vocational education including apprenticeships, or even straight to work.

“Whatever their next steps in life, our Year 13 students and their teachers deserve to be congratulated for another impressive set of exam results – efforts made more noteworthy given their strong performance comes amid major exam reforms.”

Julie Robinson, ISC general secretary, said: “The UK’s independent school sector is not necessarily what people may think, it is a mix of selective and non-selective schools, large schools and small schools – the majority of ISC schools have fewer than 350 pupils – and schools offering a range of specialisms. These schools understand the importance of pupil wellbeing and breadth of curriculum.

“Given the strength of that educational offer and personal development opportunities available to pupils in independent schools, these academic results show that high attainment is possible in the context of a well-rounded education.”

Contact Ian Mason, ISC
0207 766 7062, 07736 317683


Independent Schools Council (ISC).

The ISC brings together seven associations and four affiliate associations to represent over 1,300 independent schools. These schools educate more than half-a-million children. Around half of UK independent schools are ISC schools, educating about 80% of all independent school children.

The ISC’s seven constituent associations are: Association of Governing Bodies of Independent Schools (AGBIS), Girls' Schools Association (GSA), Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC), Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS), Independent Schools Association (ISA), Independent Schools' Bursars Association (ISBA), The Society of Heads. The ISC's four affiliate associations are: Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA), Council of British International Schools (COBIS), Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS), Welsh Independent Schools Council (WISC).