Significant increase in alternative qualifications in independent schools

The ISC’s analysis of Year 13 exam results show more schools are now offering alternative qualifications to A-levels

There has been a rise in the number of Independent Schools Council (ISC) schools offering alternative qualifications to A-levels.

The ISC’s research of this year’s exam results show more independent schools than ever are offering BTECs, Pre-Us and Extended Project Qualifications (EPQ). 90% of schools had results for exams other than just A-levels this year.

There has also been an increase in the number of young people successfully securing these qualifications.

ISC chairman Barnaby Lenon said independent schools are “well-placed” to enable pupils to access both academic and vocational pathways.


The number of pupils taking BTECs has nearly doubled since 2015, from 694 to 1,296 candidates.

The number of schools offering it has increased from 51 schools four years ago, to 100 this year.


The number of pupils taking the Pre-U has risen from 1,516 in 2015 to 3,677 this year, with 107 schools offering the qualification now compared to just 49 four years ago.


Since 2015, the number of people taking the EPQ has more than doubled – from 3,202 candidates to 7,139.

The number of schools offering the qualification has grown by nearly 100 – from 274 to 370.

Lenon said: “It is encouraging to see a growing number of schools offering yet more choice to pupils, acknowledging that alternative qualifications provide different ways through which young people can explore the subjects they are most passionate about.

“Regardless of whether a pupil wants to pursue a more academic or vocational pathway, independent schools are well-placed to enable them access to the route that will best meet their needs. This year’s results show that schools are offering a wider array of educational opportunities and effectively supporting pupils to fulfil their potential.”

“The hard work and dedication demonstrated by pupils and their teachers should not be underestimated – congratulations to them all for their achievements. Any exam is stressful at the best of times, even more so during periods of major reform such as this.”

ISC schools also took the reformed A-levels, with one in 14 candidates achieving three or more A* grades. The percentage of people achieving A* was more than twice the national average.

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