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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:

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

Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups:

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

Asian/Asian British:

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

Black/African/Caribbean/Black British:

  • Black African
  • Black Caribbean
  • Other Black background

  • Chinese

  • 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:

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

Ethnic groups and how data on ethnicity is collected

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

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Ethnicity % Number % Number % Number % Number % Number % Number
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
Asian 9 1,936 10 2,045 10 2,181 9 1,982 9 2,136 10 2,127
Bangladeshi 6 147 6 165 6 177 5 167 6 216 6 212
Indian 12 1,064 13 1,090 14 1,144 13 1,063 13 1,122 14 1,052
Pakistani 6 375 6 413 6 426 6 384 6 403 7 416
Asian other 11 350 12 377 12 434 10 368 9 395 12 447
Black 4 358 4 343 4 407 4 400 4 459 5 449
Black African 4 255 4 253 5 304 5 319 4 331 5 345
Black Caribbean 3 72 3 63 3 74 2 55 4 88 3 62
Black other 4 31 3 27 3 29 3 26 3 40 5 42
Chinese 24 395 25 400 22 364 22 371 22 365 24 347
Mixed 11 714 11 794 11 817 11 854 9 855 11 887
Mixed White/Asian 15 255 16 301 16 305 15 310 14 323 14 305
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
Mixed other 12 294 11 318 11 339 12 376 10 332 12 382
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 British 10 17,166 10 16,822 10 16,085 10 15,202 9 15,172 11 14,207
White Irish 12 112 13 138 15 149 12 120 11 113 15 136
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
White other 12 771 12 871 11 862 10 775 10 796 11 794
Other 10 262 10 281 10 297 9 286 9 298 11 331
Unknown 12 418 12 325 12 302 10 246 13 286 13 252
Unmatched 28 11,931 27 11,791 26 11,183 25 10,614 24 10,620 26 10,273

Summary

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.

Methodology

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.

Rounding

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

16 to 19 accountability headline measures: technical guide, January 2017

Data source details

Source

A level attainment characteristics

Department

Department for Education

Type of statistic

Official statistic

Suppression rules

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.

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

Download the data

students-aged-16-to-18-achieving-3-a-grades-or-better-at-a-level.csv

This file contains: ethnicity, year, numerator, denominator