A-level results 2015 reveal North-South divide for pass rates and top grades

The north-east of England had the highest overall pass rate but the lowest proportion of A* and A grades, for example

Lizzie Dearden@lizziedearden
Thursday 13 August 2015 13:22
Northern England tended to have the best overall pass rates, while the south had a higher proportion of As and A*s
Northern England tended to have the best overall pass rates, while the south had a higher proportion of As and A*s

A stark North-South divide has been revealed in today’s A-level results, with the number of exams awarded the highest grades differing by as much as 10 per cent at opposite ends of England.

While the North East has the highest overall pass rate, it has the lowest proportion of A and A*s, and the reverse is true for southern areas.

London, for example, has the lowest number of A*-E grades for any English region, at 97.7 per cent, but one of the highest rates of pupils receiving the top marks (27.3 per cent).

Here are the figures:

Chris Keates, general secretary of teachers’ union the NASUWT, said the trend is not a new one and did not reflect negatively on particular regions.

“This picture is a long-standing feature of the exam system,” she said.

“There has always been variation between and within regions and this does not mean that any local authorities or regions are more effective than others.

“Caution should be used in seeking to draw any conclusions about education standards from an examination of crude raw outcome figures.

“For example, they cannot not tell us about the value added from the point where pupils enter further education to when they leave, or take into account the complex factors which influence pupil outcome and attainment.”

The percentage of students getting A* grades nationally was 8.2 per cent

For the UK, the overall pass rate of A* to E grades recovered after last year's dip to a record 98.1 per cent, although the number of top grades fell fractionally.

South West England and the East Midlands saw the biggest year-on-year fall in the number of candidates receiving A grades or above, dropping 0.7 percentage points.

The only places to see the top marks rise were Eastern England, north-west England and London, rising by 0.1, 0.2 and 0.4 per cent respectively.

James Kewin, the Deputy Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association, said the regional disparity was "not a new problem".

"It is difficult to provide a single explanation for this trend, but it is likely that the greater number of selective and independent schools in the south of the country plays a part," he added.

"This in turn can then affect rates of progression to the most selective universities. Despite this, many state Sixth Form Colleges outperform independent schools in terms of exam results and university entry despite receiving significantly less funding per student."

Malcolm Trobe, the deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the discrepancies should be investigated but cautioned against drawing conclusions from the figures.

“There’s quite a stark difference with the A* and A grades particularly,” he told The Independent.

“This is something that really does need some further investigation to find out what factors may be impacting on the range of student attainment.

“But we must be wary of jumping to any conclusions because there is a complex range of factors here that could be having an effect.”

By midnight, 409,410 people had been accepted on to university courses in the UK, the highest number of acceptances ever recorded on A-level results day, Ucas said.

Additional reporting by PA

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