A Level results hit record high as almost 50% of pupils land A and A* grades

Female maths students overtook boys for the first time in the number of A* grades achieved (Photo: Getty Images)

The proportion of A Level students awarded an A or A* grade for has surged to a record high this year, after exams were cancelled for a second consecutive year due to Covid-19.

Thousands of students have instead been given grades determined by teachers, with pupils assessed only on what they have been taught during the pandemic.

The results were based on a range of evidence, including mock exams, coursework and in-class assessments using questions by exam boards.

Almost 50% achieve top grades

Girls scored higher at the top grades than boys, while female maths students overtook boys for the first time in the number of A* grades achieved, figures published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) show.

In total, more than two in five (44.8 per cent) students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were awarded an A or A* grade this year, which is up on last year by 6.3 percentage points, when 38.5 per cent achieved the top grades.

The proportion of students awarded the highest A* grade this year has surged to 19.1 per cent - the highest proportion since the top grade was first introduced back in 2010.

A total of 6.9 per cent of students in England were awarded three A* this year, compared with just 4.3 per cent in 2010 and a mere 1.6 per cent in 2019.

It was instead decided that teachers would submit their decisions on pupils’ grades based on a range of evidence, including samples of work sent to exam boards as part of quality assurance (QA) checks.

This same approach has been used again this year, with random and targeted sample checks of evidence also carried out after grades were submitted.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “It is important to understand that the system used to assess students this year is different from both formal exams and the approach that was used last year too, when an attempt to use an algorithm to standardise grades nationally went wrong and had to be abandoned.

“It is therefore invidious to make direct comparisons with other years and vital that we celebrate the achievements of this year’s cohort who have had to endure so much over the past 18 months.”

Grades scrutinised by exam boards

Ofqual said that work from students at 1,101 centres across England – around one in five schools and colleges – was scrutinised by exam boards.

The regulator said of the 85 per cent of schools and colleges whose students’ work was scrutinised, it was satisfied that the evidence supported the grades submitted by teachers.

Ofqual added that the remainder of the results were subject to further scrutiny, including conversations between subject experts and staff from the school or college.

Following this, “in most cases” the exam boards were satisfied with the original grades or with the revised grades which they submitted.

Dr Philip Wright, director-general of JCQ, said: “On behalf of JCQ and the exam boards, I would like to congratulate all students receiving their results today.

“The impact of Covid has undoubtedly provided a difficult chapter in their education journey and their resilience is to be applauded. We wish them all the best as they take their next steps in life.

“We would also like to express our sincere thanks to teachers, exams officers, heads of centre and colleagues, who have all worked exceptionally hard to determine grades this summer.

“Teachers used their professional judgment and submitted the grades and evidence in good time for us to check and award grades today. Their efforts will allow students to swiftly progress on to the next stages of their education, training or employment.”

This article originally appeared on our sister site, NationalWorld.