Improving A-level results at top state schools are challenging the private sector

The Sunday Times has looked into the detail of state school A-level results after comments last week that schools in the independent sector are being threatened by their growing success.

The paper reports that A-level results at the best state schools are now so good they are challenging the very best private schools where, it notes, fees can be more than £20k a year.

It outlines the situation at boys’ grammar Queen Elizabeth’s School which achieved the best state school results last year and was eight overall across the country.

The paper notes that it recorded no state schools achieving more than 80% A and B grades at A-level, with just 13 schools achieving better than 70%. By contrast, it says, last summer 10 state schools achieved more than 90% A*-B grades at A-level, 50 achieved more than 80% and 126 schools achieved more than 70%.

The Sunday Times says the analysis adds weight to comments from Ralph Lucas – the founder of the Good Schools Guide – that the improving state sector is a growing threat to independent schools.

However, it also then goes on to point out that this apparent improvement in the state sector is being led by grammar schools, with only four of the 93 state schools in the top 300 being comprehensives (and all four of those are faith schools).

It quotes Professor Alan Smithers, of Buckingham University, as saying children’s chances of going to a good state school were still a lottery:

“It is a pity that the opportunities to parents are so unequal, depending on where they live…” 

More at: State schools top private rivals (subscription may be required)


So is this argument that state schools are improving so much they are threatening the independent sector a reality or is it just a reference to a very small number of selective state grammar schools, often situated in prosperous areas?

Let us have your take on the bigger picture here.

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  1. Melissa Benn wonders if stories about ‘massively’ improved schools threatening the state sector have the whiff of Govt propaganda around them:

  2. Busy Mum

    According to the DT article on this, the top state schools are in wealthy areas. As Peter Hitchens says, schools which are forbidden to select by ability simply select by wealth instead….

  3. CurlyMan66

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove around here in an area with surplus places an average independent allowed to become a free school

  4. andylutwyche

    CurlyMan66 SchoolsImprove Yes; not sure about the logic or legitimacy of that other than it makes govt policy look artificially popular

  5. CurlyMan66

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove yup, also a mindset that says all independents must be better because people pay for them

  6. CurlyMan66

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove well they get the social cache. My wife used to make ££ in private tuition for pupils already at independents

  7. andylutwyche

    CurlyMan66 SchoolsImprove One ought to look at oneself when you have to pay for tutoring on top of large school fees

  8. andylutwyche

    PrincesBold SchoolsImprove One hopes they choose qualifications that allow their students to achieve best results!

  9. wasateacher

    It is unfortunate that this “improvement” in state schools’ A level results may be because so many state schools are demanding a much higher  GCSE grade in order to start on the A level course, thus denying some students a chance to take the exam and gain a lower grade or, even, risk no grade at all.

    I take no comfort from the news that ‘A’ level results in selective state schools challenge private schools – both will have discarded those who won’t quite make the grade!

Let us know what you think...