It also appears to reinforce universities’ claims that the dominance of
independently-educated students is a reflection of academic standards in
schools – and not discrimination by admissions tutors.

The disclosure comes after universities were told to set tough targets to
increase the proportion of pupils admitted from “under-represented groups”
including poorly-performing state schools. Around half of members of the
Russell Group set themselves a state school admissions target.

Tim Hands, the master of Magdalen College School, welcomed the figures but
warned against the use of narrow performance measures.

“Of course it’s right to ensure the right pupils get access to the right
subjects and then on to the right university destinations,” he said.

“Independent schools, not least because they are less subject to Government
interference, have a greater chance of doing this, as the table makes very

“However, suddenly inventing this new competitive measure is yet another
unnecessary political initiative and a further misuse of league tables.
There is a danger of making many pupils who want artistic, vocational or
practical qualifications feel further undervalued.”

Wendy Piatt, director-general of the Russell Group, said: “We agree A-level
choices really matter. Too few students realise that some subjects and
subject combinations can keep open wider degree course options at leading

“However, it would be wrong to use this simple indicator as a measure of the
number of pupils in a school who are qualified to apply successfully to a
Russell Group university.”

Today’s performance tables show how many students get two As and a B at
A-level in key subjects – maths and further maths, English literature,
physics, biology, chemistry, geography, history and modern and classical
languages. Data relates to more than 2,500 schools teaching A-levels in

It follows the publication of research by the Russell Group showing that
students taking academic disciplines are much more likely to win places.

But figures show that 600 – one-in-four – did not produce a single pupil with
good A-level grades in these subjects. Just 60 were from the independent

Three-quarters of the 200 leading schools were from the independent sector,
including seven in the top 10.

Aside from St Paul’s girls’ and Magdalen College School, the other fee-paying
schools in the top 10 were: Concord College in Shrewsbury, the Stephen Perse
Foundation in Cambridge, St Paul’s boys’ school in west London, Wycombe
Abbey School in High Wycombe, the Lady Eleanor Holles School in Hampton and
St Swithun’s School in Winchester.

Queen Elizabeth’s grammar school in Barnet was the top performing state school
with 65 per cent of pupils hitting the A-level target. Colchester Royal
Grammar School in Essex and the Henrietta Barnett School, north London, were
also listed in the top 10.

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