GCSE passes up, but top grades down
GCSE grades A* to C have risen slightly this year, but top A* and A grades have edged down.
Hundreds of thousands of teenagers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are receiving the results of summer exams.
In broadly stable results, the proportion of A* to C grades rose to 69%, up from 68.8% last year, but A* grades fell by 0.1 percentage points.
Head teachers’ leader Brian Lightman has warned of “volatility” in results for some individual schools.
But Michael Turner, director general for the Joint Council for Qualifications, said: “At a national level there is very little change in this year’s results but we do see educational policies continuing to have an effect on entry patterns and results at a subject level.
“This is particularly the case in English, mathematics and the sciences.”
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan welcomed the results in England as evidence that “a generation of young people from all backgrounds are now securing the GCSEs that help give them the widest range of options later in life – whether looking for a rewarding job or a top apprenticeship”.
The best results were achieved in Northern Ireland, where the proportion achieving A* to C grades rose by 0.7% to 78.7%. In Wales, the proportion was 66%, the same as least year.
Maths and English up
In the core subjects, English and maths results have both improved. In English, A* to C grades increased 3.7 percentage points to 65.4%. In maths, those achieving a C grade or better increased from 62.4% to 63.3%.
There were improvements in A* to C grades for physics, chemistry and biology. But fewer pupils taking the double science GCSE achieved good grades.
Exam boards say that this year’s results have been influenced by the changing age ranges of those taking GCSEs.
The government has discouraged schools from entering younger pupils for exams, so fewer 14- and 15-year-olds are taking GCSEs early. At the same time, a policy of requiring pupils to re-sit maths and English, if they failed to get at least a C grade, means more 17-year-olds are taking the exams.
Another trend identified by exam boards has been the continuing decline in pupils taking GCSEs in modern languages, with falling numbers in French, German and Spanish.