As if to celebrate its 50th anniversary, King’s College achieved its highest ever quota of A grades at A Level this year, with A* accounting for a spectacular 22.42% and A* to A- for 44.26%.This was particularly laudable at a time when A* and A grades fell in the UK by 1% on last year, with 7.7% gaining an A* and 25.2% gaining grades in the A* to A- bracket.

Sir Roger Fry, who set up King’s College in 1969 in an apartment in Goya, was quick to remark on the historic results that produced a 97.5% pass rate. “Congratulations to all of our students for these excellent results,” he said in a statement. “King’s is extremely proud to have helped them achieve their goals. It is extremely gratifying to see our students at King’s College are bucking the trend compared to UK national averages and in fact excel with these extremely high standards and results.”Adding to his praise, Elena Benito, King’s Group’s CEO, pointed out, “These excellent results play testament to all the hard work and dedication of our teaching staff, our support staff and, of course, the students themselves” – a message echoed by King’s Group’s Chief Academic Officer Nigel Fossey.

The exciting results came out of King’s College Madrid, Murcia, Alicante and King’s College, Saint Michaels in Worcestershire, with each school excelling in its own distinctive way.Students from King’s College Madrid have been accepted by 20 leading Russell Group universities, including Oxford University, University College London and Imperial College London – the highest number of Madrid-based students yet to gain access to this elite group. Meanwhile, in Alicante, 90% have been accepted by the top 30 UK universities, 50% of which are ranked in the global top 10, with places gained at Cambridge and Stanford. Alicante achieved King’s highest A* quota with a record 25% and Murcia students achieved a remarkable 16.46%. King’s College Saint Michaels attained a stellar 100% pass rate.

Perhaps one of the reasons King’s results in no way mirrored the dip in the UK national average is that the group has a long history of encouraging students to take several Science and Maths subjects, which are taught using state of the art equipment and a practical, contextual approach. In contrast, the drive to get students across the UK to pursue STEM subjects at A Level is more recent.

According to Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders in the UK, the drop in national average grades across Britain is quite possibly linked to the type of subject students are choosing. There were 12,000 more entries in STEM subjects than in 2018 – with a government financial incentive of up to £2,400 to boost the number of A Level Maths candidates.“There has been a heavy emphasis on STEM subjects and more young people have been encouraged to do them,” Mr Barton told The Daily Telegraph. “Young people may have chosen to do, let’s say Maths, who in the past would not have done. That will have changed the nature of that cohort.”

Particularly noteworthy this year overall was the rise in the numbers of girls taking science subjects, particularly physics and chemistry, which according to The Royal Society, Britain’s independent scientific academy, were at a historic high. In fact, there were more female entries than male for the first time ever, though computing remained male territory with girls accounting for just 13% of entries, a proportion that has crept up by just short of 6% since 2011. Gender-wise, 2019 saw girls beat boys in the A and A* bracket with 25.5% against 25.4% while boys attained 8.2% A*, 0.7 percentage points more than girls who achieved 7.5% at the highest grade.

Another curiosity among all A Level candidates in general was the rise in numbers taking Spanish as a second language, perhaps at last reflecting the fact that Spanish is the second most spoken native language in the world. Indeed, Spanish entries, which have risen by 15% since 2011 against a 36% drop in French, overtook French for the first time.

On the subject of language, King’s College results were all the more remarkable given the fact that English is, for many of the students, a second language, both within Spain and at Saint Michaels in the UK. It would be easy to ascribe their success to the quota of science subjects taken where language is more universal but in 2015, a student from an entirely Spanish-speaking background, Miranda Imperial, attained the best English A Level result in the world while Carla Lane, who is half Spanish, achieved the best English A Level result outside of the UK a year earlier.

First introduced in the UK in 1951, the A Level system was overhauled in 2015 and has been credited by the University Admissions Officers 2017 report as giving students in-depth expertise on any given subject. And while the International Baccalaureate was deemed to offer a broader education, King’s ensures equivalent scope by encouraging students to take four or five subjects in their final years. The core syllabus is also complemented with vibrant programmes beyond the confines of the classroom, in the tradition of the best schools in the UK.

Heather Galloway