Top GCSE grades have risen for the second year running to hit a four-year high, despite reforms to toughen up exams and tackle ‘dumbing down’.
More than one in five of all entries got at least a grade 7 (equivalent to the old A), the largest proportion since 2015.
The proportion scoring a maximum grade 9 also rose for a second time to almost one in 20, with more than 800 pupils getting a clean sweep of all 9s. The rise comes in an exam year billed as the toughest-ever because it is the first in which almost all the ‘difficult’ new GCSEs have been sat.
Coursework has now been mostly abolished, content is more challenging, and the 9-1 grading is designed to make it tougher to score the top grade. The reforms were pioneered by former education secretary Michael Gove after years of grade inflation under Labour and claims that the qualifications were worthless.
Top GCSE grades have risen for the second year running to hit a four-year high, despite reforms to toughen up exams and tackle ‘dumbing down’. More than one in five of all entries got at least a grade 7 (equivalent to the old A), the largest proportion since 2015
But exam boards were also ordered to set their grade boundaries low to make sure today’s pupils are not ‘disadvantaged’ compared to earlier ones.
The high results brought a storm of criticism from campaigners. Chris McGovern of the Campaign for Real Education said: ‘This devaluation of the examination currency is a national scandal. By manipulating grade boundaries the boards are undermining confidence in GCSE and making a nonsense of the claim that these are “world class” exams.
‘The questions may be a bit harder but the pass marks are lower than before the reforms. Few people will be fooled.’
Success for girl who was tiniest baby
A miracle teenager who was Britain’s smallest baby is celebrating her GCSE results.
Aaliyah Hart (pictured), 16, weighed 12oz (340g) when she was born three months prematurely at Birmingham’s City Hospital in May 2003.
Doctors predicted a one per cent chance of survival but Aaliyah went on to defy the odds.
She got grade 3s in performing arts, English literature and English language, 2s in religious education and food preparation and a grade 1 in science.
Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckingham University added: ‘Some allowance can be justified for the first to take the exams, but from now on the grades must reflect the marks. Otherwise pupils and schools receive misleading information about how good they are. The reforms will only have been worth it, if they do raise standards and the exam grades are credible.’
However, teaching leaders say the improvement shows that schools and pupils are working harder. Paul Whiteman of school leaders’ union the NAHT, said: ‘This tells us that students and staff are coping with the dramatic changes.’
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: ‘Today’s results show pupils are going on to further study and the world of work with the best possible foundations, focusing on the academic cornerstones of education while also stretching themselves creatively.’
The first reformed exams were sat in 2017 and this year all were in the new format except for four ‘niche’ language subjects.
Exam boards said yesterday that 20.8 per cent of pupils got a grade 7 or above, up from 20.5 per cent in 2018. And 67.3 per cent scored a 4 or above, up from 66.9 per cent. (Grade 4 is the equivalent of the old grade C.)
The proportion of 9 grades rose to 4.5 per cent from 4.3 per cent and the number who got all 9s (both 8 and 9 cover the old A*) rose to 837 from 732, partly because more subjects came under the 9-1 system.
Of pupils who got a clean sweep, 66.4 per cent were girls and just 33.6 per cent boys. A total of 10 students scored grade 9 in 12 GCSEs.
The proportion of 9 grades was small in most subjects but in classics, which includes Latin, it was 27.7 per cent, and in other modern languages, which include Russian and Chinese, it was 32.2 per cent.
It is thought these subjects are mostly taught by high-achieving private schools.
A total of 263 of this year’s GCSE candidates registered as ‘gender neutral’ (neither male nor female) after being given the option for the first time.
Incredible GCSE success stories
True grit of cancer girl
A schoolgirl who complained of feeling tired was taken out of her GCSE exam before being told she had cancer.
Hannah Fraser, 17, of Formby, Merseyside, had been about to sit a paper at Range High School last May but was told her she had to go straight to hospital and was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma.
But despite undergoing chemotherapy, Hannah, who is now in remission, did her exams at home and achieved grade 5s in English literature and PE, 4s in English language, maths and combined science and a 3 in media studies.
Sky’s the limit for young pilot
Elizabeth Ormston became one of the youngest pilots in Britain to earn her solo wings – just two hours after sitting her GCSE English literature exam.
The 16-year-old, who hopes to become a commercial pilot, flew an Icarus C42 solo from Popham airfield, near Basingstoke, Hampshire after taking the two-and-a-half hour paper. She was watched by her parents, Lisa, 47, and Andy, 43, of Basingstoke.
The teenager yesterday discovered that English literature was her highest scoring GCSE – a 7.
Elizabeth, a pupil at Kings’ School in Winchester also achieved a 7 in English language and photography, as well as grade 6s in maths, French, geography and physics and 5s in psychology and biology.
She will now study for A-levels at Peter Symonds College in Winchester, before moving on to flight school to become a commercial pilot. Elizabeth said: ‘I’m overwhelmed, it hasn’t really sunk in just yet.
‘I’m really surprised with my French result… it’s good to have that skill for when I fly over to France one day.’
Council estate boy wins £76k place at Eton
A teenager who shares a two-bedroom council flat with his parents and two brothers has scored the GCSE grades needed to take up his £76,000 Eton scholarship.
Hasan Patel, 16, of Leyton, east London, was offered a place at the school, which Princes William and Harry attended, after a three-day assessment. He had to score grades 7 and above in his GCSEs. The George Mitchell School pupil got three 9s, three 8s and three 7s.
Headteacher Saeed Hussain said: ‘He is a shining example… with the right support, there are no limitations.’
High-flyer leads the way with TWELVE top grades
Victoria Chung led the GCSE roll of honour with 12 top grades.
The 15-year-old flew over from her home in Hong Kong to collect her results at £22,245-a-year Roedean School in Brighton.
It was certainly worth the trip as she achieved grade 9s in art and design, biology, business studies, chemistry, Chinese, English language, English Literature, maths, further maths, German, history and physics. The teenager said she studied hard and her results were ‘beyond’ her hopes.
‘I’m really happy because there was a lot of pressure, but I managed to do well in all 12 subjects, which is amazing. I’m looking forward to coming back next term.