Record top grades for private schools – huge social gap in education

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A-level students demonstrate their support for teachers

THE FORMER schools ‘catch-up tsar’, Sir Kevan Collins, says he is worried about the vast gap in in the just announced A-level results between state and private school pupils.

His main concern is that the ‘educational legacy of Covid will be growing inequality’.

The latest A-level results, decided on by teachers, show that for private, independent school pupils in England, 70% of A-level results were A* or A, compared with just 39% for comprehensive pupils.

A-level results on Tuesday showed there were record levels of top grades in the private schools.

Collins, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, warned of a ‘huge risk’ of widening social gaps in education in the aftermath of the pandemic.

‘This is a deep problem in our system and one that seems to be growing,’ said Collins, who resigned in June over a lack of funding for his school recovery proposals.

The gaps were not just between state and private pupils, he said, but also in different parts of the country, with parts of the north of England falling far behind.

In London almost 48% of results were A* and A grades, compared with 39% in the North East.

‘We should be thinking about the inequality throughout the system,’ he warned.

He added that the response to helping schools recover after the pandemic would ‘determine the fate of the English education system’ for the next decade.

‘We’ve got to get that right,’ he added.

Geoff Barton, leader of the ASCL head teachers’ union, said ‘rather than tinkering with different grading systems, the government should be concentrating on providing appropriate support for education recovery’.

Exams are already going to be adapted next summer, to take account of lost time in school.

Barton warned it would be ‘very harsh’ on next year’s exam candidates to have grades returned straight back down to the pre-pandemic levels of 2019.

Before the pandemic, about 25% of results were top grades – this week they were almost 45% – and Barton suggested there would need to be a ‘staged re-adjustment’ from next year.

Labour’s shadow education secretary Kate Green said the gap between results in state and private schools showed the lack of consistency in how grades were decided.

‘The government didn’t set down a clear standardised process early on last year – and schools were really awarding grades in very different ways,’ she said.

Discussions about changing the grading system was ‘just tweaking the system to get the government out of a difficult story,’ said Green.

Meanwhile the private schools have never had it so good!