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Is an A Grade Gcse from a State School a better than an A* from a private School

(128 Posts)
soul2000 Sat 31-Aug-13 10:58:18

In the wake of the reported fact that 32% of pupils from Independent Schools achieved at least 1 A* at Gcse and only 8% from State Schools and now doubt, a large amount of the A* Grade"s from State schools were from Grammar Schools. If someone from a bog standard Comprehensive achieved 2As at Gcse, is that a better achievement than 4A* from a highly selective Independent School

I know these types of discussions are bound to come back to Grammar schools rights/wrongs, or about family finances or parents previous Educational background. I just want to see if people agree that an A from a normal Comprehensive requires a far greater effort than an A* from an a highly selective Independent School.

teacherandguideleader Sun 01-Sep-13 13:46:46

I work in a bog standard comp - many of ours get A*.

Personally, I think if a child is capable of an A*, they will get it anywhere - at GCSE anyhow. You get more in private schools probably because of the intake of children.

I would imagine it is the C/D borderline children for whom the nature of the school has a bigger impact.

WorrySighWorrySigh Sun 01-Sep-13 14:08:10

I think that you can say with confidence that at whatever school the A* students will have worked equally hard. The difference is that the student from a poor school is likely to have worked more independently than the student from a good school.

In our experience the poor school is eager to ensure that as many of the C/D students get the higher grade as possible. However the B & above students and E & below students are left to their own devices as not being 'worth' (to the school) the effort to improve their grades.

teacherwith2kids Sun 01-Sep-13 14:44:15

As with all these state / private discussions, there isn't a clear boundary between thw two types of school. Some comprehensives in leafy areas will have cohorts of similar or better calibre than some non-selective independents.

The question has to be about progress - how many children at each level of ability at the beginning of secondary make it to As and A*s for GCSEs [I know this is anyway a gross generalisation because e.g. levels for art, history etc aren't available for the end of primary, beginning of secondary).

So for example if a child comes in at level 3 for Maths at the beginning of Year 7, and gets a C, that represents 4 levels of progress - extremely good for a child who clearly struggled at primary.

If a child comes in at a level 5, then the same 4 levels of progress would take them up to an A - and as to reach a 5 they would have made very good progress in primary, 4 levels in secondary is unlikely to be such an ask.

So if school A takes in children with level 4s at the end of Year 6, and gets them to As or A*s, then they have done fantastically well as the children have made well over expected progress.

If school B takes in children with level 5s at the end of Year 6 and they get As and A*s, that, though very good progress, is not as exceptional.

To see what schools are really doing with the children in their care, you really do have to dig down to 'progress by individual child'.

daphnedill Sun 01-Sep-13 14:56:29


Could you explain what you mean about stopping early entries when coursework finishes? I can't see that it will make any difference, if a pupil starts a two year GCSE course at the beginning of Year 10. My state-school-educated ds has just achieved three A*s in maths, geography and history at the end of Year 10. OK, it's a good school in an affluent rural small town, but as far as I know most of the pupils who took the exams early achieved A*s. The intention never was to resit, but provide opportunities for bright pupils to do enrichment courses such as additional maths or doing an additional AS.

Ilovegeorgeclooney Sun 01-Sep-13 15:00:20

The main judgement of OFSTED for a school is based on 2 levels of progress from KS2-KS4 so a school with low headline figures say 40% A*-C can be outstanding because pupils exceeded expected progress. It all depends on the levels the pupils come in with. A school recently went from Outstanding to Requires Improvement even thought the headline figure was 80%+, but far too few pupils made expected progress. If a pupil who comes in on a 5b gets a B they have underachieved and the VA will show that.

Abra1d Sun 01-Sep-13 15:04:59

A lot depends on the subject. Latin GCSE is academically harder than Business Studies and/or economics and more likely to be sat by private school pupils. Physics is harder than RS. You can't compare apples and oranges.

JustGiveMeFiveMinutes Sun 01-Sep-13 15:05:11

I don't accept the theory that a bright child will always do well whichever school they go to. Bright children have been let down time and again by a rubbish education. Nobody can persuade me that children in Knowsley, for example, are not as bright as their higher achieving counterparts in leafy Home Counties LEAs hmm

Ilovegeorgeclooney Sun 01-Sep-13 15:18:45

I think the idea that Latin is harder is erroneous, it does however have higher status. We offer Latin as an after school activity and none of the pupils got less than a B and that was with an hours tuition a week. The majority got A*/A as these pupils did in the rest of their exams.

WorrySighWorrySigh Sun 01-Sep-13 15:52:09

teacherwith2kids where the school is a community school with little alternative you can also look at the community it serves and its' results should, on average, present that community. A school with an average community will produce average results.

Why then do execrable schools like my DCs' exist? This is a town school with no real alternatives for the vast majority of the town population. Yet, even before the latest debacle, this school has been in special measures not once but twice in the six years I have been associated with the school.

I agree with JustGiveMeFiveMinutes in that students at these poor schools are being profoundly let down by their schools.

It is a disgrace.

soul2000 Sun 01-Sep-13 16:13:56

A school needs to be resonsable for pupils who have achieved poor grades, if a pupil only achieves E/F grades they should be not allowed to leave school, the school should encourage the pupil or pupil"s to drop non essential subjects so that a pupil can concentrate on achieveing a decent English/Maths grade,.If a student is only achieving E/F grades the level must be quite poor, the pupil should not be allowed today to leave school,until the pupil has reached a standard that is higher than E/F grade"s.

I noticed that some people have said that A* students achieve these grades regardless of which school they attend. The real difference in standards and teaching is in A levels ,where students from selective Private/Grammar schools have an advantage over schools from normal Comprehensive schools.

I tend to agree with Just five minutes that pupils from inner city areas like Knowsley are at a disadvantaged, they stand out from many pupils within there school,for that reason i believe an A* is a greater achievement from an inner city area than from a prosperous town or county.

teacherwith2kids Sun 01-Sep-13 16:18:41


I have taught a child who, aged 9 and after 5 years at school with continuous 1:1 help and a bevy of specialised teachers / experts advising, could recognise the first letter of their name.

Are you saying that such children should not be allowed to leave school until they achieve above an E at GCSE?

For some children, given their starting points, Es are amazing, extraordinary achievements in which a child has overcome massive hurdles. For others, they represent relative failure. You HAVE to look at progress.

soul2000 Sun 01-Sep-13 16:40:59

Teacherwith2kids. As someone who only achieved a grade E in Gcse English in 1989, i can understand how an E can be a great achievement for certain pupils, who like myself may suffer from ADHD or DYSPRAXIA.These pupils with help from qualified SENCO"S/ and new teaching methods/genuine care help and time can surely improve on E grades. With the current and future expectations of pupil"s, a higher standard of English/Maths is required for employment.

Lilka Sun 01-Sep-13 16:45:20

My daughter achieved a C in Textiles, E grades in science and maths, and an F grade in English last year

Those grades represent huge success for her (especially the Textiles grade because it involved a lot of written work)- and she won't ever be able to achieve much more than that because she has a learning disability, problems caused by foetal alcohol exposure and emotional/behavioural and mental health difficulites. She couldn't even spell her own name aged 10 for goodness sake

GCSE's are supposed to assess nearly all children including those with learning disabilities, serious emotional/behavioural issues and lots of other issues

That's why E, F and G grades exists and why those grades will be the highest some children will be able to achieve - and good for them

Progress and school performance has to be measured against the childrens progress, not the results on their own

There would have been no point getting my DD2 to resit the next year. She would probably have become upset and frustrated and felt bad struggling to do the same thing again with a very negative effect on her behaviour. If her mental health and anxiety issues stabilise more in the future and she wanted to do something requiring C grades THEN going to adult classes and resitting would be a good idea and I would support that

teacherwith2kids Sun 01-Sep-13 16:47:28

Hmm. Due to the nature and extent of the special needs involved, I suspect that by the time this child reached 16, with sufficient input (and probably attendance at a Special school later in their school career), then the reading of a simple book designed for beginner readers - an early ORT book, for example - might be possible. More than an E at GCSE - I'm less certain.

Lilka Sun 01-Sep-13 16:51:10

Oh and my daughters grades represent the sustained and amazing efforts of the staff at her school (an EBD special school) as well as my efforts, therapy from CAMHS and even a national specialist centre, medication, involvement from social work and so on

I find it difficult to see what more could have been put in for her in terms of school

What worries me is that so many children have serious issues but remain in unsuitable schools with poor support. They will simply get all U's if they actually are still in school and attend the exams

teacherwith2kids Sun 01-Sep-13 16:53:06

Lilka, absolutely. And saying 'oh, but they must retake until they get 'good grades' ' negates all the brilliant work such specialist schools put in to enable young people to get the best qualifications that they possibly can.

meditrina Sun 01-Sep-13 17:10:32

"Maybe things will change with the terminal exams and no more coursework, "controlled" assessments and endless resits"

Don't most public schools sit IGCSEs these days?

Meaning they're already on terminal exams and limited resits. So if modules, coursework find resits mean higher grades, then it s the GCSE schools (ie predominantly state schools) which will see a results dip.

BlackMogul Sun 01-Sep-13 17:27:26

Sitting exams at the end of a long period of teaching is a better test of how long someone retains knowledge but not necessarily a test of whether they have understood the knowledge on the way there. OP - if you are talking about A levels, unis reduce their offers to some candidates so an AAB offer may be reduced to ABB for example. I think the quality of teaching and teacher expectation is absolutely critical. Also some independent schools are not particularly selective and not that good either. In my area the grammar schools out perform the independent schools. People do tend to take up the offer of a grammar school place and only go to the independents if their DC's do not get into the grammar schools. It is not true that lower results mean the child has worked just as hard because you can never really evaluate what might have been achieved elsewhere. However, poor teaching will always result in lower grades, sadly, but this is not just a state school problem, believe me. My DD was greatly let down by poor teaching in Art at GCSE in an independent school. This has been turned round by great teaching at A level. I do think many teachers at selective schools have higher expectations and a critical factor is the value added score for the school. If this is really low, ie no added value but negative, the grades the pupils achieve will be lower than a school that adds value, independent or state.

BlackMogul Sun 01-Sep-13 17:30:37

Sorry , just meant to add independent schools definitely do not all do iGCSE! Also iGCSE has a much bigger marks range for B grade so boosts results. However, for maths the syllabus appeared to be greater, including some things my husband did at A level, but if you are good at maths it is good prep for A level.

morethanpotatoprints Sun 01-Sep-13 17:32:47

It doesn't matter which school it came from an A* is just that. An A is an A wherever you studied it, surely.

teacherwith2kids Sun 01-Sep-13 17:56:09


In some ways, of course, yes: it says that according to the GCSE marking criteria, you achived the same standard in that exam as another person who got the same grade.

But (and it's a big but) if in your class everyone was being taught all the ways to get an A or A*, everyone being at the same level, lots of coaching and exam tips and tricks - and if you yourself were a native English speaker, plenty of time and opportunity to study at home - then that is slightly different from being in a class where only you were working at that level, where most other students were being taught to cross the C/D borderline or lower, where you entered England as a refugee 3 years before, are inadequately housed and have nowhere at home to get out a book and are sharing a room with all 5 of your family.

Of course, the grade is the same. What the question is is whether that grade represents quite the same thing under different circumstances.

WorrySighWorrySigh Sun 01-Sep-13 18:20:28

morethanpotatoprints the A* student from a selective independent will have had to achieve a higher mark than the A student from the poorest comp. The question is how much is the A* selective indie student assisted to get this grade compared to the A grade poorest comp student?

Isnt it easier to achieve the highest grade if the student is directed towards the appropriate work with suitable support?

It is far harder to achieve the higher grades if the teaching is aimed at getting the C&D grade students to achieve a pass.

WorrySighWorrySigh Sun 01-Sep-13 18:21:35

like wot teach said but so much better!

morethanpotatoprints Sun 01-Sep-13 18:28:55


Isn't that just because an A* is higher grade than an A, irrespective of the school, or am I being a bit dumb?

morethanpotatoprints Sun 01-Sep-13 18:32:07

Sorry have just read your post teacher I get it now.
I am so glad I don't have to think about school systems anymore grin
Think dd will do IGCSE's when its time. grin

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