Senior Professional Education Officer at Voice, Ian Toone gave his reasons for the drop: “Threats by the Government to ‘contain’ the rising tide of so-called ‘grade inflation’, whereby pass rates increase year on year, have resulted in the introduction of more stringent syllabuses (particularly evident in Science and English this year) as well as a heavier emphasis on terminal assessment (40% of assessments must now be taken at the end of the course, restricting the extent to which candidates can accumulate marks by sitting and resitting modules throughout the course), and tougher rules on the setting of grade boundaries.”
In particular, the proportion of students attaining A*- C grades in English was 63.9%, down 1.5 percentage points, and in Maths 58.4% of students reached the benchmark of C or above, a drop of 0.4 percentage points.
Speaking of these results, John Cridland, Director-General of the CBI, (Confederation of British Industry) said: “While the proportion of students attaining an A*- C grade in English and Maths has dropped back a little, enhancing the rigour of our examination system will help to improve performance compared with our international competitors.”
Cridland continued: “The challenge is to help more of our young people to reach the benchmark grade of C or above in English and Maths. So it’s disappointing that many students still fail this measure, with 36% of students failing to get a grade A*-C in English and 42% missing the benchmark in Maths.”
Said Cridland: “What this shows is a failure in our education system during the early and primary years to help young people that need the most support. In Maths, for instance, there is an alarming drift in the performance of children from poorer backgrounds between the ages of 7 and 11 – and too few catch up by the time they are 16.”
Speaking of the Mathematics GCSE results, Professor Steve Sparks FRS, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME) showed concern for Maths study prospects beyond GCSE’s: “Many of this year’s students will not get the opportunity to pursue mathematics post-16 due to poor career advice and a lack of post-16 study options in mathematics. Typically, only students who achieve A or A* in GCSE Mathematics go on to study AS and A-level, which is not the case with other subjects.”
ICT and Geography were two subjects that saw a marked increase in the number of students sitting exams this year.
There was a 3.5% increase in the number of students sitting GCSE Geography exams, at the same time as the total number of exams taken across all subjects increased by just 1.4%.
Geography has moved up one place and is now the ninth most popular subject studied at GCSE level.
Commenting on the Geography results, Royal Geographical Society Director, Dr Rita Gardner CBE, said: “It is extremely welcome news that Geography is becoming more popular and that more students are choosing to study it at GCSE level.
“With the subject playing an essential role in teaching pupils about the world's peoples, places and environments, and the processes that bring about changes and challenges to our world, we hope this upwards trend will continue. In our crowded planet, everyone needs to understand the world they live in.”
Professor Steve Furber FRS, Chair of the Royal Society of Computing in Schools Report, was encouraged by today’s results: “Today’s figures, which show a 12.9% increase in the numbers taking the ICT GCSE, are a good step in the right direction for a subject that has seen consistent declines for the last 5 years.”
Furber continued: “We’ve seen a lot of positive messages from government recently about the importance of computing and, together with this rise in participation, we hope that we may be at the start of a renaissance here.”