Number of top A-level grades falls sharply as north-south divide grows

The number of top grades at A-level has fallen sharply this year after a return to examinations, with warnings about large regional variations and a “stark” divide between the state sector and private schools, where pupils were almost twice as likely to get an A or A*.

Results awarded in England, Wales and Northern Ireland revealed top grades down by 8.4 percentage points on last year’s record results, while A*s alone decreased by 4.5 points, in line with government plans to bring results gradually back to pre-pandemic levels.

The attainment gap between the more affluent London and south-east regions and the north-east is growing, however. While the gap between the south and the north-east was between 4 and 5 percentage points in 2019, it now stands at more than 8 percentage points.

Chris Zarraga, the director of Schools North East, said: “We are incredibly proud of the students and school staff in our region and all they have achieved despite unprecedented circumstances….

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This article was written by Sally Weale, Pamela Duncan, Rachel Hall and Carmen Aguilar García and originally published on