GCSE grades awarded to students are down from last year – but still above pre-COVID levels, with a grade ‘lenient to reflect pandemic recovery’.
In 2021, the proportion of GCSE entries that were awarded the best ratings have reached an all-time high after exams were canceled for the second year in a row and students achieved results based on teacher assessments.
Those getting their grades today are the first cohort to take physical exams since COVID and shutdowns forced the temporary overhaul of the education system.
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The trend seen today in the figures released by the Joint Qualifications Council (JCQ) is similar to A levels last weekwith ratings lower than last year, but still higher than 2019.
The number of students scoring a 7 (equivalent to an A) is up 5.5 percentage points from 2019, but down 2.6 percentage points from 2021.
This means that the number of entries with the highest score increased from 28.9% last year to 26.3% this year.
Students with a 4 (equivalent to a C or a passing grade) are also up 5.9 percentage points from 2019 and down 3.9 percentage points from 2021.
There were 5.7million entries to the GCSE this year, down 0.6% from 2021. Entries of 17-year-olds and older fell by 17%, continuing the trend seen last year, indicating fewer retakes of English and mathematics.
Overall results for female students remained superior, with 30% of their entries scoring a 7/A, compared to 22.6% for males.
The most in-demand subjects remained unchanged from 2021, with science, maths, English, English literature and history being the most popular.
Business studies saw the largest increase in intake, up 4.6% from 2021, with geography increasing by 2.7%.
The average number of enrollments per student is up slightly, to 7.78 from 7.69 last year.
How are GCSEs graded in the UK?
The grading of GCSEs differs in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
In England, the traditional A* to G grades have been replaced by a 9 to 1 system, with 9 being the highest grade.
In general, a 7-9 grade is roughly equivalent to AA*, while a 4 and above grade is roughly equivalent to a C and above.
The letter grading system of A*-G is still used in Northern Ireland and Wales.
This year exams have been graded more generously in a bid to provide a safety net for students in the return to pre-pandemic arrangements.
Lower grades ‘are part of the plan’
Speaking before the official figures were released, Education Minister Will Quince said the lower grades were “very much part of the plan”.
“In the past two years teachers have been evaluating grades, we have come back to exams for the first time,” he said.
“We recognize the fact that young people have faced huge disruption over the past two years so there have been adaptations in place and Ofqual has reflected in their scoring and rankings.”
Work accused successive Conservative governments of ‘failing our children’pointing out regional differences in the ratings of last year’s teacher evaluations.
Shadow Schools Minister Stephen Morgan said: ‘Young people receiving results have worked incredibly hard, but 12 years of Tory governments have left a legacy of unequal results that are holding children back and holding back communities.’
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Exams “the fairest way to assess students”
Kath Thomas, JCQ’s acting executive director, congratulated the students on their results “after a lot of hard work and all the challenges of the pandemic.”
She said: “We are delighted that exams are back as they are the fairest way to assess students and give everyone the chance to show what they know.
“It’s the first time in three years that results have been based on formal exams and coursework, so it’s a welcome step back to normalcy.
“These results will help them take the next step in their education and make important decisions about their future.”
But the Pearson review board warned this week thousands of students could miss on the release of BTEC (Business and Technology Education Council) results today.
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He said changes made this year to accommodate disruptions to teaching and learning during the pandemic, had “added more complexity to the process” and that without full information they are unable to assign results.