Top GCSE grades fall for the second year in a row :(

Today is the highly anticipated (and perhaps nervous) day of reckoning for England, Wales and Northern Ireland’s 16 year olds, as GCSE results are published today. If you are one of those and reading this blog, I hope that you got what you hoped for or better 🙂

Statistics show this year that there has been a drop in the proportion of GCSE exam entries awarded top grades, for the second year in a row. Here’s a brief summary of the facts and figures (I love statistics as you may have guessed by now :P)

The proportion of exam entries graded between an A* and a C was 68.1%, down from 69.4% last year.

The proportion getting an A* or an A fell from 22.4% to 21.3%.

In English, the proportion of entries awarded A*s to Cs fell by 0.5 percentage points, to 63.6%. In maths, the fall was of 0.8 percentage points.

There was a big fall in pupils getting top grades in the sciences, following the introduction of new syllabuses and exams. This year 53.1% of science entries were awarded between an A* and a C, down from 60.7% last year. That was the biggest fall in top results across all the subjects.

The results also show an increase in those taking foreign languages and humanities at GCSE level. This may have been due to the introduction of the English Baccalaureate, which now rates schools on how many pupils get GCSEs in these subjects as well as the core subjects.

Entries for geography jumped by 19.2% this year, while those for history rose 16.7%.

Entries for traditional modern foreign languages – French, German and Spanish – are up by 16.9% compared with last year, reversing a long-term downward trend. This seems a little surprising to me because the trend of taking these subjects to A level is still falling as we discovered last week. Although I’m not sure whether this is true for all schools, but it was certainly compulsory in my old grammar school that we had to do at least one MFL subject to GCSE level.

Those of you who read my post yesterday about Ofqual’s predictions and warnings will probably be saying that they were right. It’s certainly true that the core subjects have faced an absolute pounding in terms of pass rates and grades, science in particular. This does look worrying to me …

The overall pass rate falling for the first time in 25 years! That is a grave concern for me, and I’m not the only one. Mary Bousted, head of teachers’ union ATL, is also worried. She says, “If pupils and schools are working harder and harder to achieve grades A* to C they cannot be penalised for doing so by having fixed pass rates. This puts schools in the invidious position of never being able to achieve what is demanded of them.”

Conservative MP and chairman of the Commons education committee Graham Stuart, said: “All this work goes into gaining these qualifications. If those qualifications lose currency, if there’s a form of inflation going on then that undermines all the hard work of school…”

Shadow Education Secretary points to concerns about children taking multiple exams in the same subject with different exam boards. He states, “There has been a big increase in the number of young people taking two or more exams in the same subject. This is bad for standards, school budgets and learning. Michael Gove needs to get a grip on the multiple entry exam practice that is distorting standards. We need an exam system that maintains standards year on year, accurately reflects pupil performance and that employers, universities, parents and young people have confidence in.”

These our worrying times for our education system. It does show that Michael Gove and the DfE are not on the right track at this moment in time. Since these reforms have been going on all over the place, results have been falling. It’s certainly not looking good. I’m hopeful that things pick up but with these altogether new GCSEs due to come in in 2015 I really doubt it’s going to happen anytime soon. Here’s hoping I’m being too pessimistic …

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