Students aged 16 to 18 achieving 3 A grades or better at A level
The main facts and figures show that:
- in 2016/17, 222,084 students at the end of 16 to 18 study were entered for at least one A level or applied A level, and ethnicity was known for 181,348 students (82% of them)
- of the students for whom ethnicity was known, 76% were White, 12% were Asian, 5% were Black, 5% had Mixed ethnicity, 1% were from the Chinese ethnic group, and 2% were from the Other ethnic group
- overall, 13.4% of students achieved 3 A grades or better at A level (including students for whom ethnicity wasn’t known)
- 24.8% of students from the Chinese ethnic group achieved 3 A grades or better, the highest percentage out of all broad ethnic groups, followed by 13.0% of students with Mixed ethnicity, 11.3% of White students, 10.9% of Asian students, 9.9% of students from the Other ethnic group, and 5.3% of Black students
- out of all specific ethnic groups, students from the Chinese ethnic group were most likely to achieve 3 A grades or better at A level, and Black Caribbean students were least likely to (with 3.6% doing so) – although the data shows that no Traveller of Irish Heritage students achieved 3 A grades or better at A levels, there were only 13 students in this group, so any generalisations based on this result are unreliable
Things you need to know
Previously published data on A level attainment used a different methodology so is not comparable.
Ethnicity was not known for 18% of students who entered one or more A levels or applied A levels in 2016/17. This is mainly due to students attending independent (non-state) schools not having their ethnicity recorded on the Department for Education’s school census. Those with unknown ethnicity are included in the figures for ‘All’ ethnicities, and results for this group are shown in the table and download file.
What the data measures
This data measures the percentage of A level students in England aged 16 to 18 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 students at the end of A level study in the 2016/17 academic year (September 2016 to July 2017).
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 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
Chinese Other ethnic group
Students aged 16 to 18 achieving at least 3 A grades at A level by ethnicity
Percentage of students achieving at least 3 A grades at A level by ethnicity
|Ethnicity||%||Students in cohort|
|Mixed White/Black African||10.1||941|
|Mixed White/Black Caribbean||8.2||1,862|
This data shows that:
- overall in 2016/17, 13.4% of students achieved 3 A grades or better at A level (including those for whom ethnicity wasn’t known)
- students from the Chinese ethnic group were most likely to achieve 3 A grades or better at A level, with 24.8% doing so
- students from the Black Caribbean and Black Other ethnic groups were least likely to achieve 3 A grades or better at A level, with 3.6% and 5.5% respectively doing so
- 11.2% of White British students achieved 3 A grades or better at A level
- the ethnicity wasn’t known for some students, usually because they had previously attended an independent school – 23.7% of this group achieved 3 A grades or better at A level
- although the chart and table show that 0% of Traveller of Irish Heritage students and 7.7% of Gypsy/Roma students achieved 3 A grades or better at A level in 2016/17, these groups are based on small numbers of students (13 and 26 respectively) so any generalisations based on these results are unreliable
The data used for this analysis comes from the National Pupil Database.
In 2016/17, students are included in this measure if both the following apply:
- they completed their studies at the end of the 2016/17 academic year, or are aged 18 years at the start of the academic year and have not been reported in the performance tables at their current allocated provider
- they were entered for at least one A level qualification during their 16 to 18 studies (including A/AS levels, applied single A/AS levels, applied double A/AS levels or combined A/AS 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, characteristics data is sourced from school census data collected when they were at the end of key stage 4. This method means 82% of students entering one or more A level or applied A level who completed 16 to 18 study in 2016/17 have ethnicity information available.
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, before starting their 16 to 18 study. In 2016/17 the percentage of students achieving 3 A grades or better for all students was 13.4%. For matched students this figure was 11.1%, and for unmatched students it was 23.7%.
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).
Percentages in the charts and tables are rounded to the nearest 1 decimal place.
Related publicationsQuality and methodology information
Type of data
Type of statistic
Department for Education
Purpose of data source
The main purpose of this data is to measure schools/colleges' and students' performance, to monitor and improve standards and inform parental and student choice.
Download the data
This file contains: ethnicity, value, denominator