Students aged 16 to 18 achieving 3 A grades or better at A level
The main facts and figures show that:
225,732 students at the end of 16 to 18 study were entered for A levels in 2016, of which ethnicity was known for 183,646 students (81%)
of the students entered for A levels whose ethnicity was known, 77% were White, 11% were Asian, 5% were Black, 4% were Mixed, 1% were Chinese and 2% came from the Other ethnic group
in 2015/16, the national average for the percentage of A level students at the end of 16 to 18 study achieving 3 A grades or better at A level was 13%
3 A grades or better at A level was achieved by 24% of Chinese students, 11% of Mixed students, 11% of White students, 11% of Other ethnic group students, 10% of Asian students and 5% of Black students
Chinese students were consistently most likely to achieve 3 A grades or better at A level and Traveller of Irish Heritage students and Gypsy/Roma students were least likely to
Things you need to know
Ethnicity is not known for 18% of students entered for A levels in 2015/16. This is usually because at the time students ethnicity was recorded on the Department for Education’s school census, these students were attending an independent, non-state school.
Ethnicity is also not known for 0.8% of students who were included in the school census, but whose ethnicity was not recorded.
In 2016, the Department for Education (DfE) changed the way it counts students included in this measure. Between 2011 and 2015, DfE included students who were entered for at least one A level, which may have been combined with other, different qualifications. From 2016, DfE only included students who were studying A levels solely, not combined with any other type of qualification.
This means that the number of students included is lower in 2016 than it was between 2011 and 2015. Because of this change in methodology, it’s difficult to draw any reliable conclusions about changes in A level attainment over the period studied.
DfE has excluded, or ‘suppressed’, very small numbers (for example, values of 1 or 2, a percentage based on 1 or 2 students who achieved, or 0, 1 or 2 students who did not achieve a particular level), or where revealing a number would allow users to work out the suppressed number (‘secondary suppression’).
This is because, where the size of the ethnic group population is small enough that an individual’s identity could be revealed, information is suppressed to preserve confidentiality. This is consistent with DfE’s statistical policy statement on confidentiality .
What the data measures
This data measures the percentage of students in England in 16 to 18 study who achieved 3 A grades or better at A level broken down by ethnicity.
16 to 18 study typically covers school years 12 and 13.
The data covers the academic years from 2010/11 to 2015/16 (September 2010 to July 2016).
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 has been added to the Asian/Asian British group but is not reported separately
- Chinese students have been assigned a separate category
These changes were made after consultations with local authorities and lobby groups.
The categories in the school census are as follows:
- White British
- White Irish
- Traveller of Irish Heritage
- Other White
Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups:
- White and Black Caribbean
- White and Black African
- White and Asian
- Other Mixed background
- Sri Lankan
- Other Asian background
- Black African
- Black Caribbean
Other Black background
Other ethnic group
Information is provided for both specific and broad ethnic groups where possible and when the data is available.
The 6 broad categories used are as follows:
- Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups
- Asian/Asian British
- Black/African/Caribbean/Black British
- Other ethnic group
Students aged 16 to 18 achieving 3 A grades or better at A level by ethnicity
Percentage and number of students achieving 3 A grades or better at A level by ethnicity
|All||13||withheld to protect confidentiality||13||withheld to protect confidentiality||13||withheld to protect confidentiality||12||withheld to protect confidentiality||12||withheld to protect confidentiality||13||withheld to protect confidentiality|
|Mixed White/Black African||9||63||11||76||8||61||7||64||8||84||9||75|
|Mixed White/Black Caribbean||6||102||6||99||6||112||5||104||5||116||7||125|
|White||withheld to protect confidentiality||withheld to protect confidentiality||10||17,831||withheld to protect confidentiality||withheld to protect confidentiality||withheld to protect confidentiality||withheld to protect confidentiality||9||16,084||11||15,137|
|White Irish Traveller||0||0||0||0||withheld to protect confidentiality||withheld to protect confidentiality||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|White Gypsy/Roma||withheld to protect confidentiality||withheld to protect confidentiality||0||0||withheld to protect confidentiality||withheld to protect confidentiality||withheld to protect confidentiality||withheld to protect confidentiality||9||3||0||0|
This data shows that:
Chinese students had the consistently the highest percentage of achieving 3 A grades or better at A level and Traveller of Irish Heritage students and Gypsy/Roma students had the lowest: in 2015/16, 24% of Chinese students achieved 3 A grades or better at A level compared to 0% of Traveller of Irish Heritage students and Gypsy/Roma students
Traveller of Irish Heritage students and Gypsy/Roma students were least likely to achieve 3 A grades or better at A level; however the number of students in these groups is extremely small - 17 Gypsy/Roma students and 4 Traveller of Irish Heritage students took A levels in 2015/16
after Traveller of Irish Heritage students and Gypsy/Roma students, Black Caribbean and Other Black students had consistently the lowest percentage of students achieving 3 A grades or better at A level; in 2015/16, 3% and 5% respectively achieved 3 A grades or better
in 2015/16, 11% of White British students achieved 3 A grades or better at A level
in 2015/16, the ethnicity of 18% of students who were entered for A levels didn’t appear on the school census, usually because they had previously attended a non-state funded school: 26% of this group achieved 3 A grades or better at A level
Methodology and type of data
Type of data
Linked administrative data
Purpose of data source
The primary purpose is to measure schools and students performance at 16 to 18 study to monitor and improve standards and inform parental choice.
The data used for this analysis comes from the National Pupil Database.
Between 2011 and 2014/15, students included in this measure were at the end of advanced level study and were entered for at least one A level, applied single award A level or applied double award A level in the corresponding academic year (ie academic year 14/15 for 2015 data). An applied double award A level at grade A*A* counts as two grade A*s, AA counts as two grade As and an award at grade AB counts as one grade A.
From 2015/16, the percentage of students aged 16 to 18 achieving 3 A grades or better at A level covers students at the end of advanced level who were entered for A levels. Students are identified using the following criteria:
- students need to have entered for one or more full-size A levels (including A levels or applied levels, not including AS levels, applied AS levels, general studies or critical thinking)
- if students have entered for less than 3 full-size A levels, then they are only included in the measure if they have not entered for other academic, applied general or tech level qualifications greater than the size of an A level.
Characteristics, such as ethnicity and free school meal eligibility, are not routinely or consistently collected at 16 to 18. In order to get characteristics data for these students their 16 to 18 exam records were matched to spring census records, for the academic year that fell 3 years before they reached the end of 16 to 18. A three-year time lag was chosen because characteristics, such as ethnicity, are unlikely to change. This enables a match for students that have taken either 2 or 3 years to complete their advanced level.
This method enabled 82.2% of students who completed 16 to 18 study in 2015/16 to be matched to their census data.
Students can be unmatched for a number of reasons, of which the most likely is that they attended an independent school and therefore are not captured in the school census. Other reasons include moving to England after the date of the census collection or taking longer than 3 years to complete A levels after finishing GCSEs.
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 be high achievers. In 2015/16 the percentage of students achieving 3 A grades or better for all students was 13.2%. For matched students this figure was 10.5%, and for unmatched students it was 25.6%.
In some of the years published in the underlying tables, there were a very small number of duplicate students records (less than 0.5%). Some of these duplicates reflect dual registered students, but there was no obvious reason for some of them and the numbers were small enough to have little impact, so these records were left in.
All charts and tables are rounded to the nearest whole number. In the downloads, percentages and scores are given to one decimal place.Quality and methodology information
Further technical information
Data source details
Department for Education
Type of statistic
Values of 1 or 2 or a percentage based on 1 or 2 students who achieved, or did not achieve, a particular standard are suppressed. Some additional figures may be suppressed to prevent the possibility of a suppressed figure being revealed. This suppression is consistent with DfE’s statistical policy on confidentiality.
The numerator and denominator figures for all students is not available, as publishing this information would compromise suppression. For the same reason, in years where one of the detailed ethnic breakdowns (for example Gypsy or Roma) has been suppressed, the figures for the broad ethnic group (White) are not available.
For each year, the percentage achieving 3 A grades or better at A level for all students has been taken from the A level and other level 3 results from the SFR (revised) and the numerator and denominator figures have been marked as missing.
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
Download the data
This file contains: ethnicity, year, numerator, denominator