The gulf between private and state schools has widened during the pandemic causing a ‘national disaster’ for Britain’s poorest students with fee-paying institutions accused of gaming the A-level system that handed teachers the power to grade their pupils with barely any moderation

The gulf between private and state schools has widened during the pandemic causing a ‘national disaster’ for Britain’s poorest students with fee-paying institutions accused of gaming the A-level system that handed teachers the power to grade their pupils with barely any moderation.

Today it was revealed that 70.1 per cent of teenagers at fee-paying schools received an A or A* in a subject in 2021 – compared to around 35 per cent in council-run comprehensives.

Education campaigners have said the pandemic has ‘compounded’ inequality in schools, especially for those in poorer areas, and there are also signs that middle class children in sixth-form colleges and grammar schools are falling further behind private school counterparts.   

It came as rampant grade inflation fuelled by the pandemic today led to almost half of all A-level students gaining an A* or A grade from their teachers – a new record. And only one in five of any of today’s A-level results were scrutinised by exam boards this year, it emerged today, with even fewer disputed by Ofqual who said they was happy to ‘trust teachers’.

In total 44.8 per cent of UK entries to a subject were awarded an A or A* grade this summer – up by 6.3 per cent on 2020 when 38.5% achieved it – and one in five of all results was an A* this year, another record.  It means that the number of top grades handed out has almost doubled in the two years since students last sat exams in 2019, when 25.2% got an A or an A*. 

As private schools pulled further away from state counterparts, Conservative MP Robert Halfon, chair of the Commons Education Committee, warned the last year ‘has been nothing short of a national disaster for our disadvantaged pupils’.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme: ‘I do worry about the fact that we seem to have, in essence, baked a hard rock cake of grade inflation into our exam results.

I would have preferred a system which had some kind of standardised assessment – and we wrote to the secretary of state, our education committee, in March urging that this would be done.’

He added: ‘Every effort from the Government should be to focus on reducing that attainment gap, I’d like to see the Prime Minister announce a serious long-term plan for education – the last year has been nothing short of a national disaster for our disadvantaged pupils.’ 

The number of teenagers getting top grades in A-Levels has risen across the board but private schools are pulling further ahead of state schools, trading options almost doubling the number of As and A*s in the past two years since exams were postponed.

Traditional schools are classed as secondary comprehensives, secondary modern, sixth form colleges and tertiary colleges. Selective grammar schools also appear to be edging away from state rivals

The Sutton Trust says that the pandemic has ‘compounded existing inequalities’ in the schools system

70% of private school students have been given an A* or A this year – compared to around 35% for a non-selective comprehensive school

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<div class="art-ins mol-factbox news halfRHS" data-version="2" id="mol-c08fa2a0-f9f3-11eb-93fa-5fcc8cd0eb87" website of teacher-assessed A-levels marked A or A* at private schools