Pupils in London and the south east recorded the largest rise in top A-level results compared to 2019 as grade standards settled back to the new post-pandemic normal, with those in the north east hardest-hit.
Results this year have mostly returned to pre-pandemic standards after three years of grade inflation following the cancelation of exams.
However the regional picture varies.
The north east now has the lowest proportion of A* or A grades (22 per cent).
It has been surpassed by both the east and West Midlands, whose top grades rose to 22.3 per cent and 22.9 per cent respectively.
Both the north east and Yorkshire and the Humber have a lower proportion of top grades this year than in 2019.
Comparing top grades this year to 2019, London and the south east have recorded the biggest rises.
It means the gap between the two top-performing regions and the rest of the country has widened this year.
Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chair of the Sutton Trust and Education Endowment Foundation, said: “The overall picture today is one of growing disparity between the most and least well off young people.
“There are significant regional differences in attainment, with top grades falling most in the North East while they have increased most in London and the South East, in line with patterns of regional prosperity.”
‘Recovery plan simply not good enough’
Schools North East, a membership organisation for schools in the region, said ministers must “recognise that ‘recovery’ and a return to 2019 is simply not good enough”.
Schools “urgently need a long-term strategic plan to address educational inequalities”.
Chris Zarraga, director of Schools North East, said that, if not, “we risk this year’s gaps and inequalities becoming the norm”.
“Recognition of the perennial contextual challenges, and the impact of the pandemic on more than just those students that had exams cancelled, is long overdue.”
We don’t have attendance data for year 13 pupils. However, the changes do partially mirror attendance rates for year 11 pupils in a study by Education Datalab.
London year 11s had the best attendance rates, while those in the north east had among the worst. However, the south east also had relatively high absence rates, according to the analysis.
Revealed: University place regional divide grows
The regional divide can also be seen in university places.
Schools Week analysis shows the proportion of 18-year-olds accepted into university rose by more than 16 per cent in London and almost 10 per cent in the south east, when comparing 2019 acceptance rates to 2023.
The figure for the capital was higher than anywhere else in the country. Meanwhile, the smallest increases were seen in the north west (0.4 per cent) and north east (2.1 per cent).
Researchers from the Education Policy Institute have also found that pupils in London are much more likely to apply for university. More than 55 per cent of 18-year-olds from the capital tried to secure a uni place this year.
The second highest proportion was in the south east (43 per cent). The number was lowest in the north east, where less than 35 per cent of 18-year-olds applied.