Biggest increase in top GCSE grades in England independent schools

GCSE results released today show another set of record grades, with independent schools in England showing the biggest increase in top marks

GCSE results released today (12 August) show the biggest increase in top grades in England independent schools compared with other types of schools and colleges.

Ofqual found that 61.2% of results in England independent schools were awarded a grade 7 or above, which is up 4 percentage points on last year. This is compared to 26.1% of top grades in comprehensive schools this year. The relative change was similar across independent schools, academies and comprehensives, with independent schools starting with a higher rate of top grades.

Overall, GCSE results in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are at a record high. The number of top grades (7 and above) rose 2.7 percentage points to 28.9%. Grade 4s and above – which are passes – rose 0.8 percentage points to 76.3%.

This is a smaller rise than last year, when top grades rose 9 percentage points and passes were up 5.4 percentage points.

Year 11 students at Redmaids’ High in Bristol


Exams were cancelled this year for the second year in a row due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Grades were based on teachers’ judgements, with pupils assessed using mock exams, mini-exams, coursework or homework.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said it is important not to make comparisons with grades in previous years. “Every grade is evidenced by examples of students’ work and performance and so everyone can rely on these grades to help students move on to their next step,” she said.

“Like with A-Level results on Tuesday, any talk of different profiles of grades must take into account an understanding that the system used this year was different to both last year and other years previously. To make comparisons without this understanding would be inaccurate.”

Every grade is evidenced by examples of students’ work and performance and so everyone can rely on these grades to help students move on to their next step – Dr Mary Bousted, NEU

Independent Schools Council chairman, Barnaby Lenon, similarly said: “Trying to make comparisons with previous years is neither helpful nor accurate given the unique nature of the 2021 assessment system. Let us all focus on celebrating and supporting this year’s cohort, for whom we wish the very best.”

Earlier this week, A-level results were released, showing an all-time high of 44.8% of students achieving an A* or A grades.

‘Courage in the face of adversity’

Independent schools are celebrating the hard work of their pupils after a disruptive year.

Will Scott, principal of Dame Allan’s Schools in Newcastle, said: “Our GCSE students have shown courage in the face of adversity and once again made us exceptionally proud with an outstanding set of results.

“They have been committed to achieving their absolute best and can now look ahead to sixth form, where I know they will flourish as the shackles of this pandemic are removed.”

Kingswood School, Bath students (pictured above) are celebrating their results, with 57% of all results awarded at grades 9 and 8, and 77% at grades 9-7. Headmaster Andrew Gordon-Brown said the year 11 cohort have coped “admirably”.

GCSE students at Pocklington School


Several students at Redmaids’ High in Bristol got straight 9s in all subjects. Head of Redmaids’ High in Bristol, Paul Dwyer, said he is “filled with joy to celebrate every grade and personal success”.

Toby Seth, headmaster at Pocklington School in East Yorkshire, said: “Our fifth year students have worked tirelessly throughout the whole of their GCSEs. They have coped with the normal challenges associated with these courses and, on top of that, have had to work through the most recent period of pandemic upheaval.

“Their teachers and I are so very pleased to celebrate with them and we look ahead with great positivity to the next steps in their educational journey.”

Read more: Bursary student heading to Cambridge following top A-level results

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