Figures have revealed the overall proportion of students nabbing A* to C grades in their GCSEs has fallen this year – from 69 percent to 66.9 percent, the biggest ever year-on-year decline – despite a record number of students retaking their exams in the hope of achieving a C grade or higher.
Officials say the fall was partly driven by a drop in grades in England. Northern Ireland's results improved this year, while GCSE results in Wales stayed at the same level. England's comparatively poor results have been attributed to the country's policy of encouraging students to get A* to C grades in maths and English, with 17-year-olds required to re-sit exams for grades they fall short on. There were over 380,000 entries among these older pupils retaking their English and maths exams after year 11 this year, up by a quarter on last year. But even without these older pupils re-sitting their exams, there has been a fall in 16-year-olds' results, with the number of students achieving A* to C grades declining by 1.3 points.
Notably, this year's results were down for maths, English, history and geography. Teaching groups have blamed the government's recent education reforms for the dip, which places emphasis on maths, English and science over creative subjects and Modern Foreign Languages. Meanwhile, figures released by the Joint Council for Qualifications show the gender gap in achievement has continued to grow, with 71.3 percent of female GCSE students getting C grades or above, compared with a significantly lower 62.4 percent of boys. There has also been a dip in the number of students taking their GCSEs a year early, down from a quarter when compared with last year.
This year's results will be the last of their kind; from next year, there will be a major change in the way exams are marked and how overall school performance is measured. GCSEs will be graded by numbers from 2017, from nine down to one, as opposed to the letter-based system currently in use. Education officials are also in the process of introducing a new way of assessing schools in England, dubbed Progress 8, which will track students' improvement throughout their secondary education rather than their grades at face value. In the meantime: a moment of silence for all the students' whose parents are going off at them for not getting "good" pass grades.
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