The proportion of GCSEs scoring a C or above has fallen for the first time in the exam’s 24-year history.
Official figures reveal a 0.4% drop in the A*-C pass rate. The results also show that the percentage of entries awarded at least C in the key subjects of English, maths and science has also fallen.
Thursday’s national figures reveal that 69.4% of all GCSE exams were given at least a C grade – down from 69.8% last summer. It is the first time that the A*-C pass rate has fallen in the 24-year history of GCSEs. The exams were first taught in 1986, with the first exams taken in 1988.
Exam board chiefs said this had been a year of “major change” and that drops in results were partly down to tougher science GCSEs and more candidates sitting English in the summer rather than earlier, in the winter exam season.
Around 650,000 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are receiving their results on Thursday.
The Joint Council for Qualifications, which publishes the national results, said there had been a “dramatic” increase in entries for science GCSE – up 36.5% – and said that the fall in results at A*-C in this subject is partly due to a “more demanding standard” introduced this year, and a “significant” increase in entries by 15-year-olds.
Andrew Hall, chief executive of exam board AQA, said: “This year has got more change in it than I think I’ve seen in my time at any awarding body.” AQA stressed that the standards students have to achieve remained the same.
Ziggy Liaquat, managing director of Edexcel, said: “The quality of work required to achieve an A grade this year is the same as the quality of work required to achieve an A grade last year.”
The exam boards said changes were most apparent in the science results, with Mark Dawe, chief executive of the OCR, saying that the Government wanted a more difficult paper set for students.
Mr Dawe said: “What’s very clear is changes in the science specifications have had an impact on grades, and it was known from the beginning, the Government wanted a harder science paper, when Ofqual was accrediting it, it was a harder science paper, and when the results are coming through, this is harder.”
By The Press Association