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21.03.10. Glut of A* supergrades for pupils at private schools

Jack Grimston and Liz Lightfoot from Timesonline report:
TWO-THIRDS of pupils at some of the country’s leading independent schools have scored the new A* “supergrade” in their A-levels, according to the first snapshot of results. The figures have been gathered from 24 elite schools where some pupils have completed maths A-levels. On average, 65% of pupils who have completed their maths A-levels at these schools have scored A* s, with 80% winning the grade at the top-performing school.

The A* was introduced because universities complained that the soaring number of A grades made it hard to identify the best candidates. One in eight pupils now achieves three As. A handful of universities already require an A* among applicants’ grades. At Cambridge at least three applicants have been told they must gain three A*s.

There are fears that this year’s A-levels will widen the gap between state and independent schools. The Independent Schools Council has calculated that 16.5% of all papers taken by its pupils could gain A*s, but the new research suggests this may be an underestimate.

The Edexcel exam board has forecast that just over 12% of maths candidates will gain A*s. Official projections suggest the figure for all subjects will be about 6%.

Responses suggest that in biology, chemistry, physics and English literature, 45% of pupils at the schools surveyed will score A*s. Read full text here.