Students aged 16 to 18 achieving at least 3 A grades at A level

Published

1. Main facts and figures

  • in 2017/18, 12.9% of students aged 16 to 18 got 3 A grades or better at A level (including students whose ethnicity wasn’t known)
  • 22.5% of students from the Chinese ethnic group got 3 A grades or better, the highest percentage out of the 6 broad ethnic groups
  • 5.1% of Black students got 3 A grades or better, the lowest percentage out of the 6 broad ethnic groups
  • out of the 18 specific ethnic groups, students from the Chinese ethnic group were most likely to achieve at least 3 A grades
  • Black Caribbean students were the least likely to achieve at least 3 A grades, with 3.5% doing so
  • 28.6% of Traveller of Irish Heritage students got at least 3 A grades – while this appears to be the highest percentage, generalisations are not reliable as there were only 7 students in this ethnic group
Things you need to know

In 2017/18, 230, 827 students aged 16 to 18 were entered for at least one A level or applied A level. Ethnicity was known for 83.2% (192,107 students).

Of the students for whom ethnicity was known:

  • 74.9% were White
  • 12.5% were Asian
  • 5.4% were Black
  • 4.6% had Mixed ethnicity
  • 0.8% were from the Chinese ethnic group
  • 1.8% were from the Other ethnic group

Ethnicity was not known for 16.8% of students. This is mainly due to students attending independent (non-state) schools not having their ethnicity recorded on the Department for Education’s school census.

Students whose ethnicity isn’t known are included in the figures for ‘All’ ethnicities, and results for this group are shown in the table and download file.

Data relating to academic years before 2016/17 uses a different methodology so is not comparable.

What the data measures

This data measures the percentage of A level students aged 16 to 18 in England who got 3 A grades or better at A level, broken down by ethnicity.

Students aged 16 to 18 are typically in school years 12 and 13 (sometimes called 'sixth form').

The data covers students at the end of A level study in the 2017/18 academic year (September 2017 to July 2018).

The ethnic categories used in this data

This data uses categories from the Department for Education’s school census, which is broadly based on the 2001 national Census, with 3 exceptions:

  • Traveller of Irish Heritage and Gypsy/Roma children have been separated into 2 categories
  • Sri Lankan is included in the Asian/Asian British group but is not reported separately
  • Chinese pupils have been assigned a separate category from Asian

These changes were made after consultations with local authorities and lobby groups.

Data is reported for broad and specific ethnic groups.

The 18 specific ethnic groups are

Asian/Asian British:

  • Indian
  • Pakistani
  • Bangladeshi
  • Sri Lankan
  • Other Asian background

Black/African/Caribbean/Black British:

  • Black African
  • Black Caribbean
  • Other Black background

Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups:

  • White and Black Caribbean
  • White and Black African
  • White and Asian
  • Other Mixed background

White:

  • White British
  • White Irish
  • Traveller of Irish Heritage
  • Gypsy/Roma
  • Other White

Chinese

Other ethnic group

The 6 broad ethnic groups are:

  • Asian/Asian British
  • Black/African/Caribbean/Black British
  • Chinese
  • Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups
  • White
  • Other ethnic group

2. By ethnicity

Percentage of A level students aged 16 to 18 who got at least 3 A grades, by ethnicity
Ethnicity % Students in cohort
All 12.9 230,827
Asian 10.9 24,002
Bangladeshi 7.7 3,694
Indian 15.3 8,244
Pakistani 7.3 7,502
Asian other 11.6 4,562
Black 5.1 10,376
Black African 5.6 7,352
Black Caribbean 3.5 1,891
Black other 4.1 1,133
Chinese 22.5 1,461
Mixed 11.4 8,927
Mixed White/Asian 14.0 2,528
Mixed White/Black African 8.9 1,038
Mixed White/Black Caribbean 7.4 1,939
Mixed other 12.4 3,422
White 11.0 143,814
White British 10.9 133,576
White Irish 14.3 924
Gypsy/Roma 3.6 28
Irish Traveller 28.6 7
White other 11.4 9,279
Other 10.3 3,527
Unknown 23.5 38,720

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity’ (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • in 2017/18, 12.9% of students got at least 3 A grades at A level (including those whose ethnicity wasn’t known)
  • students from the Chinese ethnic group were the most likely out of all ethnic groups to get at least 3 A grades at A level, with 22.5% doing so
  • the least likely students to get at least 3 A grades were from the Black Caribbean (3.5%) ethnic group
  • 10.9% of White British students got 3 A grades or better at A level
  • the ethnicity wasn’t known for some students (around 17% of all A level students), usually because they had previously attended an independent school – 23.5% of this group got at least 3 A grades
  • 28.6% of Traveller of Irish Heritage students and 3.6% of Gypsy/Roma students got at least 3 A grades – but these figures are based on small numbers of students (7 and 28 respectively) so any generalisations are unreliable

3. Methodology

The data used for this analysis comes from the National Pupil Database.

In 2017/18, students were included in the data if both:

  • they completed their studies at the end of the 2017/18 academic year, or were 18 years old at the start of the academic year and hadn’t been reported in the performance tables at their current education provider
  • they were entered for at least one A level (including A/AS levels, applied single A/AS levels, applied double A/AS levels or combined A/AS level)

Characteristics such as ethnicity are not routinely or consistently collected for students aged 16 to 18.

Information about students’ ethnicity was taken from school census data collected at the end of key stage 4. This method matched 83.2% of students in this data to an associated ethnicity.

Students who were unmatched might have:

  • attended an independent school before their A levels and therefore not been captured in the school census
  • moved to England after the school census data was collected

The distribution of characteristics of the unmatched students is likely to be different from those who have been matched, particularly because students from independent schools are more likely to have high attainment at the end of key stage 4.

In 2017/18, the overall percentage of students getting at least 3 A grades was 12.9%. For matched students this figure was 10.8%, and for unmatched students it was 23.5%.

Suppression rules and disclosure control

The Code of Practice for Official Statistics requires DfE to take reasonable steps to ensure that their published or disseminated statistics protect confidentiality.

For more information about DfE’s disclosure control procedures for its statistical releases please see DfE’s statistical policy statement on confidentiality (PDF).

Rounding

Percentages in the charts and tables are rounded to the nearest 1 decimal place.

Related publications

A level attainment by pupil characteristics

Quality and methodology information

4. Data sources

Source

Type of data

Administrative data

Type of statistic

National Statistics

Publisher

Department for Education

Publication frequency

Yearly

Purpose of data source

The main aims of this data are to:

  • to measure the performance of schools and colleges
  • measure students’ performance
  • monitor and improve standards
  • inform parental and student choice

5. Download the data

Students aged 16 to 18 achieving 3 A grades or better at A level - Spreadsheet (csv) 7 KB

Measure, Ethnicity, Ethnicity_type, Time, Time_Type, Geography, Geography_Type, Age, Value, Value_Type, Denominator