Concord College

Top independent schools for hard A levels

Not all A-levels are created equal. Some are tougher than others. It is generally accepted that Further Maths and Physics are among the hardest, if not the hardest.  The problem with  tables that rank schools by A level results is that they do not take account of the A level mix, which makes it difficult to judge which schools are producing the best results in the sciences.  The data already published by the Department for Education, (results in 2011), makes it possible to rank schools on the basis of  A* stars in Further Maths and physics.

The list is not comprehensive, because it does not include schools that mainly do the International Baccalaureate (IB), such as Sevenoaks School and King’s School, Wimbledon. Winchester College and Charterhouse School are also missing because they do the pre-u.

In the main, the must successful schools are the traditional, seriously selective boys’ schools in membership of  The Headmasters and Headmistresses Conference, (HMC).   The exception is Concord College in Acton Burell, Shrewsbury, a small co-educational boarding school with a high proportion of pupils from Hong Kong and China. Its A* results in Further Maths in 2011, (30 A* s), put it on a par with Westminster School.  Tom Lawrence, the school’s academic vice-principal,  says pupils coming Hong Kong and China see maths as the most important subject. They arrive at the school at 16 two years’ ahead in maths of their UK couterparts. Bellerby’s College, a tutorial college, which also draws students from Hong Kong and China,  had 23 students that achieved  A* in Further Maths.

The other schools at the top are all boys’ schools: Westminster School, (it takes girls in the sixth-form),  St Paul’s School in Barnes, London;  the Royal Grammar School in Surrey and Eton College. .

Westminster School’s results are remarkable, even given its  intake.  Two-thirds of its physics A level group  of 53 achieved an A*.  Its A* results in Further Maths were only outdone by Concord College. Westminster School, St Paul”s, Eton College and the Royal Grammar School in Surrey are highly ranked in both subjects.

For parents of girls, the choice of schools in the top ten is limited. Concord College is a co-educational boarding school. Westminster takes girls in the sixth form. Magdalen College School in Oxford and Brighton College in Brighton, two schools in the top ten for Further Maths, are co-educational.  The only co-educational school in  the physics list is The King”s School in Chester.

There are state schools that do as well as the top independents. The school with highest number of A*s in Further maths is Hills Road Sixth Fform college in Cambridge. It had 111 sixth-formers take Further maths; 35 achieved an A*: 26 in physics. Three other sixth-form colleges and 4 grammar schools had results that compare with the best in the independent sector. Dr Challoner’s Grammar School in  Bromley, Kent   racked up 22 A* in Further maths; 13 in physics. Runshaw Sixth-form College in Leyland, Lancashire,  had 21 A*s in Further maths and 18 A*s in physics. St Olave”s and St Savoir”s School, the grammar in Bromley, Kent, that hit the headlines when Labour MP Harriet Harman sent her son to the school, racked up 19 A*s in Further maths and 15 A*s in physics.






Top ten independent schools for Further Maths*


Source: Department for Education: Further Maths A level results in 2011

1 Concord College, Shrewsbury, Shropshire                              30 (50)

2 Westminster School, Westminster , London                            29 (51)

2 St Paul”s School, Barnes, London                                               29 (43)

2 Eton College,  Windsor, Berkshire                                             29 ( 58)

5 Royal Grammar School, Guildford, Surrey                                 25 ( 32)

6 Bellerby”s College                                                                              23 ( 33)

7 Tonbridge School, Tonbridge, Kent                                            19 ( 33)

8 Haberdashers” Aske”s Boys” School, Boreham Wod, Herts   17  (23)

9 Brighton College, Brighton                                                            16 (  33)

9 Magdalen Collge School, Oxford                                                   16 ( 25)

* Number in bracket is the total number of students that sat the exam.



Top ten indepedent schools for physics

A*s in 2011: Figure in bracket is total number taking the exam.


1 Westminster School, Westminster, London                      36  ( 53)

2 Royal Grammar School, Guildford                                      26 ( 57)

3 Tonbridge School, Tonbridge, Kent                                    25 ( 48)

3  Eton College, Windsor                                                          25 (61)

5 St Paul”s School, Barnes, London                                       21  (43)

6  Hampton School, Hampton, Middlesex                          18 ( 46)

6 The Perse School,  Cambridge                                            18 ( 39)

8 Concord College, Shrewsbury, Shropshire                        16 (57)

9 Haberdashers” Aske”s Boys                                                  15 ( 34)

10 The King”s School, Cheshire                                               14  37)