24 Jan 2013

A quarter of schools fail to give pupils ‘decent’ A-levels

Some one in four schools and colleges are failing to produce any students with top grades in A-level subjects that will help them win a place at a leading university, new league tables suggest.

The tables are based on data provided by the Department for Education (DfE) and show how every school and college in England performed at GCSE and A-level in 2012.

For the first time this year, the government has published figures on the numbers of pupils at each school or college that are scoring at least two A grades and a B at A-level in “facilitating” subjects.

These are subjects that are preferred, or required, by Russell Group universities, which are considered among the top institutions in the UK.

An initial analysis of the latest statistics suggests that at some 600 schools and colleges – just over one in four – no A-level student scored AAB in facilitating subjects.

Wider course options

Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said: “Too few students realise that some subjects and subject combinations can keep open wider degree course options at leading universities.

“However, it would be wrong to use this simple indicator as a measure of the number of pupils in a school who are qualified to apply successfully to a Russell Group university.”

‘Facilitating’ A-level subjects

Maths and further maths
Modern and classical languages
English Literature

The figures also showed disappointing exam performances before sixth form.


In total, 195 schools in England, collectively teaching around 167,000 children, are falling below the government’s floor target for secondaries, the figures showed.

This means that fewer than 40 per cent of their pupils are gaining at least five GCSEs at grade C or higher, including English and maths, and students are not making good enough progress in these two core subjects.

Selective schools dominated the tables again this year.

The top school for GCSE results was Colyton Grammar School in Devon. The co-educational school entered 117 pupils for GCSEs and equivalent exams this year, and all got at least five qualifications at grade C or higher.

The most improved school was Trinity High School and Sixth Form Centre in Redditch, Worcestershire.

Its GCSE results have risen from 32 per cent getting five A*-C including English and maths in 2009 to 80 per cent this year.

2012’s bottom school for GCSEs was Pate’s Grammar School in Cheltenham.

It had no pupils getting five A*-C including English and maths, according to the data.

This was because the school, which saw all pupils achieve this standard last year, had used a new English exam which was not included in this measure, the DfE said.

At Rushden Community College specialising in mathematics and computing, Northamptonshire, 6 per cent of pupils got five A* to C grades including English and maths.


Headteacher Mark Lester said the college had entered pupils for the English language and English exams but not English literature, which he said is the one counted by the DfE.

“Because of the decision made by the DfE about which English specification counts, we fall foul of that particular loophole.”

Mr Lester said that if his students’ English exams had been counted, their pass rate including English and maths would have been 46 per cent.

The latest tables also include figures on the number of pupils achieving the government’s new English Baccalaureate.

To gain the EBacc, pupils must score at least a C in English, maths, science, history or geography and a language at GCSE.

Overall, 16 per cent of state school pupils achieved the EBacc this year.