A* grade will increase number of private school students at university

The introduction of the new A* grade at A-level this summer will boost the chances of private school students going to university, research published yesterday indicated.

The new grade will be awarded to students scoring more than 90 per cent in their exams. If the system had been in place for last year's exams, 36.5 per cent of all the A* grades awarded would have gone to privately educated pupils, who make up only seven per cent of A-level student numbers.

Rudolf Eliott Lockhart, head of research at the Independent Schools Council (ISC), who compiled the figures from exam board returns, said that the findings would pose a dilemma for university admissions officers.

Universities may face criticism if they fail to reach benchmarks set for increasing the number of state school pupils and, in particular, those from disadvantaged groups, he said.

"It is very likely that the introduction of the A* grade will therefore lead to a greater proportion of those awarded the top grade at A-level being educated at ISC schools," Mr Eliott Lockhart said.

"This trend is likely to be even more marked among pupils being awarded three or more A* grades."

In addition, universities could also face a dilemma as a result of the number of A* grades being awarded being higher than originally predicted.

It was initially thought that the new grade would highlight around 25 per cent of pupils with the highest marks, but last year's results indicate that, in fact, an average of 29.8 per cent of candidates across the country scored more than 90 per cent.

The increased numbers may make it harder than expected for universities to select the brightest candidates for the most popular courses.

Only a handful of universities have included A* grades as part of their admissions criteria this year, with many believing the system should be given time to bed down before recognising it. Cambridge University, for example, will recognise the new grade and has stipulated that all candidates should have at least one A* grade.

A closer scrutiny of the research indicates that those who have withheld recognition of the A* grade may be proved correct. The last three years' results show that the number of students who would have been awarded the new grade varies considerably, falling in 2007-08 compared with the previous year, but rising again last year.

"The introduction of the A* could be a mixed blessing," Mr Eliott Lockhart said. "On the one hand the A* will allow for greater differentiation between the top candidates. On the other, the apparent volatility of the A* grade could see many very good candidates falling foul of what might be inconsistencies in the awarding of the grade."

A subject-by-subject breakdown of last year's results reveals those studying Russian are most likely to achieve an A* grade – 51.6 per cent of candidates with A grade passes would have been awarded it. Least likely are those studying computing or information technology – where only 8.9 per cent would have obtained it.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher

£130 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher Jan 2015 - July...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Our exclusive client in St Albans Hertfords...

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Primary Teachers

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 Teachers needed in Hertfordshir...

Tradewind Recruitment: Biology Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Teacher of Biology Required for April 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness