GCSE pupils gaining knowledge and skills for future success as pupils across the country celebrate success in new gold-standard GCSE qualifications.

Today, hundreds of thousands of GCSE pupils up and down the country are celebrating as they receive their results. Figures show there were more than five million entries in GCSEs in England this year, up 0.9% on last year, despite a decrease in the number of 16 year olds in the population, with around 90% of entries being in our new, gold standard reformed qualifications.

Today’s results show that among 16-year-olds in England:

  • Entries into the core academic subjects that best keep pupils’ options open – the English Baccalaureate – have gone up by 1.2% with attainment improving in these subjects;
  • Entries into modern foreign languages have increased, driven by rises in Spanish (up 5.3%) and German (up 2.5%) while entries in French have remained broadly stable in line with population change;
  • Entries into individual sciences have increased – 22.8% in biology, 19.2% in chemistry, 17.6% in physics and 10.8% in computer science;
  • Entries into geography and history have increased by 4.7% and 2.2% respectively;
  • Entries and attainment in maths are broadly stable, with 71% of entries getting a grade 4 or above (up from 70.7% last year);
  • Entries in English subjects are broadly stable and attainment has increased, with 71.8% of entries getting a grade 4 or above (up from 71.2% last year); and
  • There is a narrowing of the gap in attainment between girls and boys at grades 4/C and above (down 0.5 percentage points on last year), with 73.8% of girls getting these grades compared to 64.6% of boys. This pattern is repeated among the top grades (grade 7/A and above), where the gap is down 1.1 percentage points on last year – 24.6% of entries by girls compared to 18.1% for boys.

More broadly the results show:

  • London remains the strongest performing region, while almost all other regions have seen improved performance on last year – with the South West seeing the biggest improvement at grades 4/C and above; and
  • Girls outperformed boys at the top grade 9 – Ofqual figures show 732 pupils who sat seven or more reformed GCSEs have managed to get straight 9s across those subjects - 68% of this group were female and 32% male. This year 2,025 candidates achieved all grade 9s in English language, English literature and maths compared to 2,050 last year.

Following on from the introduction of reformed maths and English GCSEs last year, these pupils were the first to take new, more rigorous GCSE exams in 20 subjects, graded 9 to 1.

The more rigorous content better prepares pupils for the world of work or further study. The 20 new gold-standard GCSEs – including the sciences, French, German, Spanish, history and geography – are now on par with expectations in countries with high performing education systems.

In response to today's GCSE Results

KevinCourtney100x100Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said:

“Congratulations to the students and teachers on achieving their results today, even with the issues with this years’ grading.

“Today’s results confirm that the DfE must abandon the delusional expectation that 90% of children will take the EBacc. Teachers and leaders, who know their pupils better than Ministers ever could, continue to reject the policy, and EBacc entries are now declining.

“This year it has been impossible for teachers to predict their students’ results because of a lack of certainty in the new 9-1 grade boundaries. By design, success is being rationed and fewer people have received the top grade of a 9 than used to receive an A*: we are already hearing that students who were hoping for the highest grade have been disappointed to receive an 8, as they no longer see themselves as one of the highest attainers. As well as impacting students individually, this could lead to a substantial increase in requests for papers to be re-marked.

“This year only 24% of 17-year-olds passed maths, and 33% of the cohort passed in English Language. Overall, the number of students who passed maths has dropped by 2.8 percentage points, and by 2.4 percentage points in English. The Government must acknowledge that their policy to force 17-year-olds to re-take English and maths until they obtain a pass grade (4 or above) is not in the best interests of students. It is a policy which is clearly not working as less than a third are passing their re-sits.”

david hughes 100 x100David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said:

“Congratulations to all those students who have been successful in their exams and to the dedicated staff who have supported them in their English and maths resits.

“English and maths is a challenge for colleges. Colleges will continue to face the English and maths challenge while the Government insists on all 16- to 18-year-old students who haven’t achieved a grade 4 at GCSE resitting the exam. After five years of putting students through GCSE resits, colleges can confirm that the policy does not work and is an obstacle to the ambition that we all share for students.

"English and maths are crucial skills but teachers should be able to use professional judgement to decide on the most appropriate qualification for everyone."

Nick GibbSchool Standards Minister Nick Gibb said:

"Congratulations to all the pupils getting their results today. All of their hard work – and that of their teachers – has paid off and I hope that this is the first step to a bright and successful future. Whatever they choose to do next – whether it is staying at school, going to college, or starting an apprenticeship – these qualifications will give them a solid base of knowledge and skills that they can build on.

"Thanks to our reforms and the hard work of teachers, education standards are rising in our schools and pupils have shown their abilities by achieving excellent results today, with so many pupils meeting and exceeding the standards we expect."

Alan Woods OBE 100x100Alan Woods OBE, CEO of VTCT said:

“It’s encouraging to see strong pass rates across a range of subjects, and we’d like to really congratulate all students receiving their results today, particularly in the context of a major change to both the grading system and more stretching academic nature of this year’s GCSEs.

“However, whilst today’s results show a slight decline in the number of students securing a level 4 pass in English Language and pass rates in maths remaining broadly flat, we need to be taking further action, backed up by government funding, to dramatically improve the pass rates for those aged 17 or older retaking their maths and English GCSEs, some of whom have retaken these exams up to 9 times.

“Standards and graded outcomes are becoming more rigorous across all forms of learning, and business, government, schools and colleges need to promote the opportunities and benefits offered through all vocational  and technical education, including apprenticeships

“From hairdressing to software engineering, and from Law to spa management, relevant math’s and English qualifications are critical for students looking to pursue a technical qualification, an apprenticeship or for those intending to go to university.”

Patricia Finlayson, Senior Product Manager, Education, at Polycom:

“This week’s GCSE exam results have once again shown that, despite many female students achieving high results in STEM subjects, they are disparaged from studying them at higher levels. Social pressures play a key factor; according to a recent study by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, male dominance and low confidence are reasons as to why female students are opting to take their studies elsewhere, outside of the realm of maths and science subjects. We urgently need to change this perception; girls need access to women working in careers relating to these subjects. Let’s not forget that these are careers are often higher-paid.

“The effect of role models and mentors cannot be ignored and educators need to be demonstrating that girls are not only capable, but also encouraged to pursue a diverse array of studies. Take Highlands Ranch school in the US as an example. Here, female educators and mentors with STEM backgrounds interact with female students via video conferencing to inspire them to study STEM subjects. Collaboration technology and digital content is used as a key resource and learning tool to deliver education in new and exciting ways.

“The UK should follow suit and introduce initiatives for students to interact with educators and role models across a multitude of platforms to enhance their learning of STEM subjects. This can help demystify perceptions and stereotypes, as girls continue to be underrepresented in classrooms, boardrooms and entrepreneur lists. By acknowledging the role that females can play in building our digital and science skills, the UK can address gender diversity and remain competitive against other nations.”

Mark Rhodes, Recruitment Specialist, Reed:

“Whatever your grades on GCSE results day there are still plenty of options available to you.

"If you didn’t get the results you’d hoped for, you could choose to study a vocational qualification such as BTECs or NVQs, which combine studying subjects with practical learning. These could be a great option if you have a specific career or job in mind and want to gain more experience in your chosen industry. Employers particularly value these types of qualifications due to the practical skills they teach.

"Enrolling on an apprenticeship or internship could also be a way to help you make the transition from school to work. You’ll have the opportunity to work for a specific employer, earn money and learn practical job skills all whilst completing your qualification.

"Even if you don’t want to continue your studies, most employers value good GCSE results as a prerequisite, and often list minimum grades on job applications. If you’re unhappy with your results, or need a specific grade for entry to higher education you may want to consider retaking your exams to improve your grades.”

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), said:

“It is deeply concerning that half of the nation’s young people felt pressurised into going to university. Indeed, this new research shows a pattern: the younger the generation, the more likely they were to feel pressurised into studying for a degree. In the past, academic education was often favoured over vocational studies but this view was always questionable and is now outdated. With GCSE results having just been published, we are urging students to give other career paths such as vocational training and apprenticeships serious consideration. A construction apprenticeship can lead to a fulfilling and rewarding career. Our recent research showed that the average university graduate in England earns £32,000 a year whereas your average bricklayer or roofer is earning £42,000 a year.

“The construction industry is facing a severe skills shortage and it’s therefore of utmost importance that more young people join the sector. We are calling on all parents and teachers to encourage those who are finding out their GCSE results today to consider a career in construction. We know that nearly all of the key trades have become harder to recruit in the second quarter of this year compared to the previous three months. But construction isn’t just mud and boots, there are careers of all kinds up for grabs including engineering and quantity surveying. The only way we can guarantee enough skilled construction workers in the future is by attracting more young people into the sector and training them to a high standard.”

Damian Corneal, Apprenticeship Programme Lead, at Accenture said:

"While the popularity of the new combined Science GCSE is encouraging, we still need to do more to tackle the STEM skills gap. Looking at key subjects like Computing, Engineering, ICT, and Maths, the number of girls taking these subjects has dropped or remained stagnant. We believe that Government, businesses, and the education sector need to work together to dispel any misconceptions about STEM and show more young people how applicable these skills are for a whole range of jobs.

“As they consider their career paths, we would encourage young people and their parents to remain open to the benefits of an apprenticeship, which will enable them to develop the specialist and practical skills required to thrive in the digital economy, while working towards a degree at the same time.”

David Lakin, Head of Education, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) said:

“STEM education is very important from an early age and it's really positive to see an increase in more young people studying these subjects which could potentially open the door to an exciting and creative career as an engineer.

“However we need to look at the huge focus on maths and physics, as the role of an engineer is about solving creative challenges. It is important to harness students’ creativity and young people shouldn’t be discouraged from studying creative subjects such as design technology and the arts too.

“This is why a broad and balanced education for all young people is fundamental to the formation of future engineers, ensuring they have a rounded knowledge and skills required for engineering a better world for us all.

“It is vital that students are supported in their studies so that they are aware of the exciting range of engineering roles available to them. The country needs more people studying engineering subjects at university and taking up apprenticeships.”

As Ofqual has said, students picking up their results today can be confident they have achieved the grades their performance deserves. As in previous years, the tried and tested principle of comparable outcomes will ensure standards are maintained.

Pupils will now look forward to their next step. Many will have chosen to progress onto A Levels, which have also been reformed to better prepare students for the demands of university. Last week, A Level students achieved excellent results, with a record rate of 18-year-olds accepted to university.

In addition to this, thanks to broader reforms, young people now have several other high-class alternative options, including apprenticeships. These are giving Britain’s workforce the skills employers need in a wide range of industries from engineering to nursing, and law to design. An apprenticeship is a great way to progress after school, by getting a real job with substantial training to help develop transferable skills and kick-start a career. Apprentices do not have to contribute to the cost of their training so it can be a great option for those who want to earn and learn at the same time.

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