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, and ethnicity was known for 183,646 students (81%) of them

  • of the students entered for A levels for whom ethnicity was known, 77% were White, 11% were Asian, 5% were Black, 4% had Mixed ethnicity, 1% were Chinese and 2% came from the Other ethnic group

  • overall, 13% of students achieved 3 A grades or better at A level

  • 24% of Chinese students achieved 3 A grades or better, followed by 11% of Mixed students, 11% of White students, 11% of Other ethnic group students, 10% of Asian students and 5% of Black students

  • from 2010/11 to 2015/16, 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 was not known for 18% of students who entered A levels in 2015/16. This is mainly due to students attending independent (non-state) schools not having their ethnicity recorded on the Department for Education’s school census.

Ethnicity wasn't 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, it included students who were entered for at least one A level, which may have been combined with other, different qualifications. From 2016, it only included students who were studying A levels alone, 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.

The DfE has excluded, or ‘suppressed’, very small numbers (for example, values of 1 or 2, a percentage based on 1 or 2 pupils who achieved, or 0, 1 or 2 pupils who did not achieve a particular level).

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 (PDF).

What the data measures

This data measures the percentage of students in England aged 16 to 18 years who achieved 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 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 pupils 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 detailed and broad ethnic groups where possible and when the data is available.

The 6 broad categories used are as follows:

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

Ethnic groups and how data on ethnicity is collected

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

Percentage and number of students achieving at least 3 A grades 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
Unclassified
Unmatched 28 11,931 27 11,791 26 11,183 25 10,614 24 10,620 26 10,273

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • Chinese students were consistently most likely to achieve 3 A grades or better at A level – 24% did so in 2015/16

  • although the chart and table show that 0% of Gypsy/Roma and Traveller of Irish Heritage students achieved 3 A grades or better at A level in 2015/16, sample sizes for this group are small (17 and 4 students respectively) so any generalisations based on this result are very unreliable

  • students from the Black Caribbean and Other Black ethnic groups were consistently least likely to achieve 3 A grades or better at A level (not including the Traveller of Irish Heritage and Gypsy/Roma groups) – in 2015/16, 3% and 5% respectively did so

  • in 2015/16, 11% of White British students achieved 3 A grades or better at A level

  • in 2015/16, 18% of students who were entered for A levels weren't matched to school census records, usually because they had previously attended an independent school – 26% of this group achieved 3 A grades or better at A level

Methodology

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 A level study and had entered at least one A level, applied single award A level or applied double award A level in the corresponding academic year (for example, the 2014/15 academic year 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, students included in this measures were at the end of A level study and met the following criteria:

  • they had entered 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 they had entered fewer than 3 full-size A levels, they were only included in the measure if they hadn't 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 for students aged 16 to 18 years. To get characteristics data for these students, their exam records were matched to spring census records for the academic year 3 years before they reached the end of their A levels. A 3-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 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 census data was collected
  • taken longer than 3 years to complete A levels after finishing their 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 students registered twice, but the numbers were small enough to have little impact, so these records were left in.

Suppression rules and disclosure control

Values of 1 or 2, or a percentage based on 1 or 2 pupils who achieved; or 0, 1 or 2 pupils who did not achieve a particular level are suppressed in circumstances where non-suppression would lead to disclosure of pupils. Some additional figures have been suppressed to prevent the possibility of a suppressed figure being revealed.

This suppression is consistent with DfE’s statistical policy statement on confidentiality (PDF).

This data doesn't include the numerator (pupils who achieved 3 A grades or better at level) or denominator (all pupils who took A levels), as publishing this information would compromise suppression.

For the same reason, in years where one of the detailed ethnic breakdowns (for example Gypsy/Roma) has been suppressed, the figures for the broad ethnic group (White) are also suppressed. 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 whole number.

You can see percentages rounded to 1 decimal place if you download the data.

Quality and methodology information

Further technical information

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

Data sources

Source

A level attainment by pupil characteristics

Type of data

Administrative data

Type of statistic

Official statistics

Publisher

Department for Education

Publication frequency

Yearly

Purpose of data source

The main purpose is to measure schools' and students' performance, to monitor and improve standards and inform parental choice.

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