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Private schools set to take lion’s share of top A-Level grades due to Covid impact on state schools

Private schools are set to take the lion’s share of top A-Level grades this year as fee-paying parents pile on the pressure while Covid school closures hit state schools hard

  • Sources close to Government say gap between private and state school students is set to widen as a result of pushy parents pressuring teachers for higher grades
  • Experts say lockdown has had great impact on state schools than private schools
  • Exams were cancelled this year and teachers have had to decide pupils’ grades 


Students at private schools are set to be awarded the highest share of top A-Level grades this year after Covid school closures had a greater impact on state schools.

It comes after a report found that parents at more affluent schools were pressuring teachers to award their children higher grades because of the pandemic.

Teachers have had to decide all pupils’ final grades after exams were cancelled for a second year because of the pandemic. 

But sources close to the Government told the Times that this meant the attainment gap between state and independent schools is thought to have widened as a result. 

According to a report by the Sutton Trust, 23 per cent of private school teachers and 17 per cent of teachers at state schools in wealthy areas said they had been badgered to give better marks, according to the poll of 3,000 teachers.

Teachers have had to decide all pupils’ final grades after exams were cancelled for a second year because of the pandemic. Pictured: Students at a Brighton school celebrate in 2019

In contrast, only 11 per cent of state school teachers in poorer areas reported being put under pressure.

Applying such pressure is against the rules but some families have even threatened legal action.

However, experts have said that pushy parents and over-inflation of grades by teachers might not necessarily be the reason behind the expected attainment gap.

Researchers have pointed to evidence that the pandemic has more negatively impacted state schools than private schools and this is likely to have an impact on the grades seen next week when students pick up their results. 

Students at private schools are set to be awarded the highest share of top A-Level grades this year after Covid school closures had a greater impact on state schools. (stock image)

Students at private schools are set to be awarded the highest share of top A-Level grades this year after Covid school closures had a greater impact on state schools. (stock image)

Laura McInerney, an education analyst, told the Times: ‘It’s highly possible this isn’t down to unfair grade inflation by private school teachers.

‘Given all the evidence of how much harder school closures hit state school pupils it would be extraordinary if private school kids weren’t showing higher achievements.’ 

The extent of the divide was laid bare in a survey by the Sutton Trust, a social mobility charity, which was published earlier this year.

It found that more than a third of low-income households did not have the laptops and tablets needed for remote schooling

The Government is also proposing changes to the arrangements for practicals in science GCSEs and assessment arrangements for art and design GCSE

The Government is also proposing changes to the arrangements for practicals in science GCSEs and assessment arrangements for art and design GCSE

The report stated that 35 per cent of low-income families were lacking sufficient access to devices, compared with 11 per cent of high-income homes.

The Sutton Trust found that only 5 per cent of teachers in state schools said that all their pupils had access to a device such as an iPad, and that only 50 per cent of state schools were using online live lessons

In comparison compared with 54 per cent in private schools said all their students had access to a device such as an iPad which 86 per cent were using online live lessons – a gap that had widened since the first lockdown. 

The impact on the gap between affluent and low-income homes has already been felt.

According to the same survey, 40 per cent of children in middle class homes are learning for more than five hours a day, compared with 26 per cent in working-class households. 

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: ‘We do not comment on speculation. It would be unfair on students who have worked so hard and will be expecting their results next week.’ 

Pupils taking GCSE and A-levels in England next year could be given advance notice on the exam topics to make up for the loss of learning during Covid lockdowns.

Last month, the Department for Education (DfE) and regulator Ofqual unveiled proposals for the 2022 summer exams – which includes giving schools and colleges some choice over the topics that students are assessed on.

But final details are not expected to be confirmed until the autumn term.

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