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News - 17 August 2012

A-level A*-C grades are down

About 335,000 students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have been receiving their results - with many finding out whether they have made the grade for university.

This summer's results show 26.6% of A-level entries achieved the top two grades - down from 27% last year. This is the first drop in over two decades.

Although girls have continued to outperform boys for getting A grades - this year saw boys narrowly ahead of girls at achieving the highest A* grades - 8% compared with 7.9%.

Within the UK, the biggest drop in the top A* and A grades was in Northern Ireland - down from 34.5% to 31.9%.

However, the figures published by the Joint Council for Qualifications also show that the overall pass rate has risen again for the 30th successive year. The results also revealed a continuing fall in the numbers of pupils taking modern languages - with French, Spanish and German in decline - by 5.2%, 3.4% and 7.6% respectively

The exam boards have also published the first indications of how the results of independent schools compare with other state schools and further education colleges. This showed that 50% of entries in independent schools achieved A* or A grade, while 23% achieved these top grades in state schools and colleges.

Since 2010, England's exams watchdog Ofqual has been telling exam boards they have to account fully for any upward movement in grades - to show there was real improvement in performance. Teachers' leaders, exam bodies and others maintain that grades have improved over the years because students are better taught and are working harder, but critics dispute that.


  • Introduced in 1951
  • Taken in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Until 1982, pass rate was set at 70%
  • Since then, pass rate has risen year-on-year, up to 98% in 2012
  • This year 26.6% of pupils achieved A or A* grades

If you need any help and advice on setting up or audit of an Academy School or with Private Schools and/or Charities, contact ABDS to discuss how we can help.

ABDS Chartered Certified Accountants of Southampton.
Tel: 023 8083 6900  E-mail: abds@netaccountants.net

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