According to a new analysis, private schools were more generous with GCSE grades during the pandemic than state grammar schools. This could hurt poorer students’ prospects of getting into university.


Exams were cancelled during the previous two years due to Covid disruption, meaning schools were involved in handing out marks instead. Private and state selective school students were affected differently by grading during this time, according to a new analysis by FFT Education Datalab.


Following in 2021, private school pupils were nearly 0.7 grades higher than expected, while those attending selective grammar schools achieved around 0.3 degrees higher than expected.


This could be because the pandemic less disrupted private school pupils, but Ms Plaister said teacher-assessed grading was meant to adjust for this to some extent. The study did have some limitations – some private school pupils do not take Key Stage 2 Sats tests, so the data would be weighted towards privately educated secondary students who attended a state primary school. Some pupils from poorer backgrounds participate in independent schools on scholarship.


The findings are likely to exacerbate fears over the impact of the pandemic on pupils from less privileged backgrounds. Clearly, they have borne the brunt of disruption to their education.


There is a risk that this latest development could further entrench social inequalities and lead to even more students from disadvantaged backgrounds missing out on places at top universities.

Due to the competitive nature of university applications, any advantage that private school students have could be enough to tip the balance in their favour.


This is an important issue to consider as we move out of the pandemic. We must ensure that all students have an equal chance of success, regardless of their background.

Lee Elliot Major, Professor of Social Mobility and Director of Fair Education Foundation, said: “My biggest fear is that poorer students, already disproportionately scarred by the pandemic, may lose out in this new highly competitive era not just this year but over the next decade.”

Join the UK's #1 IPGCE at Derby

We must do everything we can to level the playing field and ensure that all students have an equal chance of success. This includes ensuring that private schools cannot benefit from any unfair advantage regarding exams and university places.


With 60% of exams getting top marks compared to 26% in state schools, it’s clear that private schools are at an advantage. This is something that we need to address urgently.


We must ensure that all students have an equal chance of success, regardless of their background. Only then can we create a fair and just society.


If you are a student affected by this issue or know someone who has, please get in touch with our team. We may be able to offer support and advice.


The government must ensure that all students have an equal chance of success, regardless of their background or school type.


Do you think private schools should be more generous with GCSE grades? Let us know in the comments below.

For more updates regarding international education follow us on IPGCE and on WeChat.

WeChat Code: