The disadvantage gap at A-level is the widest since it was introduced six years ago, new data reveals.

Provisional A-level data published today shows the gap in average point scores between disadvantaged and wealthier pupils sits at 5.08.

This compares to 4.52 when teacher grades were awarded in 2020-21 and 4.88 in 2018-19, when exams were last sat.

New Ofqual data also reveals far more students needed access arrangements – additional exam support – this year. The number approved for GCSE and A-level exams rose by 25 per cent since 2018-19, up from 404,600 to 512,085.

This is largely driven by requests for 25 per cent extra time in exams, which rose by 30 per cent in that timeframe.

Another disadvantage gap widens

The A-level disadvantage gap reflects the same trends at secondary and primary – where the gap widened to its largest in 10 years.

The A-level gap was 5.02 in 2017-18, before narrowing slightly during the pandemic and widening again when formal exams were brought back last year.

The Sutton Trust said the gap is largely being driven by poorer pupils with higher prior attainment at GCSE falling behind their classmates.

They said this has “concerning implications for widening access to the most selective universities and driving social mobility”.

The Department for Education said the disadvantage gap has recently narrowed slightly for A* grades, but is still wider than pre-pandemic.

Meanwhile, the proportion of entries awarded A* decreased across nearly all institution types compared to 2020-21 – with private schools observing the largest drop of 11.1 percentage points.

The exception is sixth form colleges, where the proportions of A* grades has remained level with last year.

Meanwhile, the average A-level result for poorer children in 2021-22 was C+ compared to B for non-disadvantaged. In 2018-19, this was C for poorer students against C+ for everyone else.

A DfE spokesperson said they know the pandemic has “particularly affected older pupils’ education which is why it is so important we continue to do all we can to help pupils to catch up”.

The catch up programme sits alongside “targeted investment for areas of the country where outcomes are weakest as we continue work to drive up standards for pupils in every corner of the country”.

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