Did scaremongering over ‘tough’ new GCSEs drive grades UP? Headteachers say pupils and staff faced more pressure this year because it was harder to get top marks after huge exam shake-up
- Proportion of entries receiving the top grades (7/A+) has risen to 20.8%, up 0.3 percentage points on last year
- 67.3% of entries received a 4/C grade or above, an increase of 0.4 points on 2018 and highest level since 2015
- Gap between girls and boys getting 7/A is unchanged, with 24.1% of girls compared with 17.6% for boys
- Statistics had largest percentage jump in entries, which rose 55% from 15,562 in 2018 to 24,027 this year
School leaders today claimed Britain’s students performed better in their GCSEs this year because staff and pupils worked harder following fears over the biggest exam shake-up for a generation.
The proportion of GCSEs awarded top grades rose for the second year in a row as more than 700,000 teenagers received their results, despite headteachers claiming the exams were so hard some pupils refused to sit them.
Union leaders said staff had put in ‘long hours and extra effort in order to provide support’ after more than one in five (20.8 per cent) GCSE entries scored one of the three top grades this year, up from 20.5 per cent last summer.
Headteachers said there was ‘no doubt’ the new GCSEs were harder, but many schools had acknowledged this challenge well in advance – with this year group the first whose exams were almost all in the tougher new format.
The 9-1 system has now replaced A* to E to show greater differentiation between grades, although eight in ten school leaders said in a poll that the reformed courses are having a detrimental effect on struggling students.
A pupil cries tears of joy after receiving her GCSE results today at Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School in Crosby, Merseyside
Somto Elumogo (centre) and other students celebrate with their GCSE results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning
A group of pupils at Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School in Crosby, Merseyside, celebrate their GCSE results this morning
Grace Murray (left) and Lucy Garside (right) celebrate with their GCSE results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning
Emily Fox (left), who got all 9s, reacts as pupils get their results at King Edward VI High School for Girls in Birmingham today
Amber Lord (centre) looks shocked as she opens her GCSE results at Robert May’s School in Odiham, Hampshire, today
The proportion receiving the top grades – at least a 7 or an A grade – is the highest since 2015 and is the second year-on-year rise in a row. The proportion of entries getting at least a 4 or a C grade is also the highest since 2015.
Exam boards and teaching leaders said the rise was down to schools are getting more used to the new curriculum and being able to teach children to a more effective level than when the qualifications were brand new.
Key figures in the results
Here are the main figures in today’s GCSE results:
- The proportion of entries receiving the top grades (7/A or above) has risen to 20.8%, up 0.3 percentage points on last year and the highest level since 2015. It is the second year-on-year rise in a row.
- 67.3% of entries received a 4/C grade or above, an increase of 0.4 points on 2018. This is also the highest level since 2015.
- The gap between girls and boys getting grade 7/A is unchanged from last year. 24.1% of entries by girls got 7/A or higher, compared with 17.6% for boys, a lead of 6.5 points.
- The gap at grade 4/C has narrowed for the second year in a row. 71.7% of entries by girls got 4/C or higher, compared with 62.9% for boys, a lead of 8.8 points. Last year the lead was 9.1.
- The most popular subject was double award science, followed by maths and English. Among all the subjects individually listed, the least popular was leisure and tourism with 111 entries.
- The subject with the largest percentage jump in entries was statistics, which rose 55%, from 15,562 entries in 2018 to 24,027 this year. The second largest increase was for Welsh second language (up 33%) followed by economics (up 17%).
- The subject with the largest proportional drop in entries was leisure and tourism, which fell 95% from 2,306 entries in 2018 to just 111. The next biggest drop was for hospitality (down 88%), followed by health and social care (down 83%).
- The overall pass rate – the proportion of entries getting 1/G or above – is unchanged from last year at 98.3%. This is the lowest overall pass rate since 2007.
- There were 5,547,447 entries for the exams, up 77,371 on last year – a rise of 1.4%.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union the National Association of Head Teachers, said: ‘Today is a very big day for thousands of secondary students.
‘Congratulations to them and to the school and college staff who’ve put in long hours and extra effort in order to provide support.
‘This year we’ve seen a small rise in the number of students getting the top grades, and a rise in the proportion of entries getting at least a 4.
‘This tells us that students and staff are coping with the dramatic changes we have seen to GCSE qualifications over the past couple of years.’
Richard Cairns, head master at £40,000-a-year Brighton College, added: ‘There is no doubt that the new GCSEs are more challenging but at Brighton College we took that as a positive.
‘We explained to the pupils that for the first time in their lives, they might be faced with academic matters that challenge them but explained that it this is a good thing. People improve their tennis by playing someone better than them.
‘We also looked after those who found some aspects of the courses difficult by setting up pop-up clinics for anyone needing to talk to a teacher about an academic matter.
‘The old GCSE was a dull regurgitation of a basic stock of facts whilst the new GCSEs, for the most part, encourage pupils to think for themselves, to challenge received opinions and to come up with their own ideas.’
And Sally-Anne Huang, vice chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), told the Daily Mail: ‘There is an added pressure on top students in that the top grade 9 is harder to achieve, so they need to be reminded of the success of an 8 or a 7 as well.
‘Only a tiny percentage of people are ever going to get all 9s. So it’s really important for the adults, who are supporting their children through their GCSEs, that they understand that an 8 or a 7 is also a huge achievement.
Zainab Islam, who got five 9s, three 8s and one 6, hugs her fellow pupil Natalia Stepniak at the school in Whalley Range today
Linus Sheaff hugs Kai Ogdon (in white) after opening their GCSE results at the City of London Academy in Hackney today
Kitty Taylor (centre left) celebrates her GCSE results as her parents and Amy Barker (centre right) at Norwich School today
Laurence Herring (right) and Gerald Ikazoboh (centre right) with their GCSE results at Norwich School in Norfolk today
Pupils celebrate with their GCSE results at King Edward VI High School for Girls in Birmingham this morning
Students show their emotion as they open their GCSE results at Robert May’s School in Odiham, Hampshire, today
(Left to right) Caroline Moseley, Amber Lord and Zoe Lock open their results at Robert May’s School in Odiham, Hampshire
‘It’s important that we don’t make our young people feel that because they haven’t got the top grades in everything that that is in any way a failure.’
Exam boundaries up for GCSE entries this year
Exam boundaries for most exams appear to have gone up since last year, research by the Daily Mail has found.
For maths on OCR, students had to get 171/300 this year for a grade 7, or A, compared to 164/300 in 2018.
In English literature, pupils needed 107/160 this year for the same score, compared to 100 last year.
As for biology, students had to achieve 100/180 for a 7 this year, compared to just 86 last year.
Meanwhile in physics, students needed 98/180 for a 7 this year, while the figure was only 91/180 in 2018.
The lowest mark required for a 7 across all subjects this year is believed to have been in the AQA biology exam, which was 107/200, or 54 per cent.
The lowest mark required for a grade 4, or C, was in the AQA maths exam, which was 43/240, or 18 per cent.
A total of 67.3 per cent of UK entries scored a C/4 or above, up from 66.9 per cent last year. The lead enjoyed by girls over boys at A/7 is unchanged from last year (6.5 percentage points).
Meanwhile the gap at C/4 has narrowed slightly from 9.1 points to 8.8. The number of UK entries getting C/4 or above in English and maths has increased slightly since last year.
As the Joint Council for Qualifications published the data, Prime Minister Boris Johnson wished students luck and said: ‘Nothing beats hard work and effort – and the greatest reward is knowing that you’ve done your best.’
A total of 62 per cent of UK entries scored C/4 or above in English, up from 61.8 per cent, while 59.6 per cent of entries scored C/4 in maths, up from 59.4 per cent.
The number of people getting a clean sweep of seven or more 9 grades has risen from 732 to 837.
But Ofqual said this was because more subjects are now being graded 1 to 9 this year.
Last year a significant number were still graded A* to E so those entries would not have counted towards the 2018 grade 9s figure.
Ofqual, the exams regulator, has ordered exam boards every year to make sure roughly the same proportion of people get each grade – so around 20 per cent of entries will always get a 7, or A, and above.
A graphic shows how the changed grade system in England (left) is different to the one in Northern Ireland and Wales (right)
Nansi Ellis, assistant general secretary of the National Education Union, congratulated students, but raised concerns about the reformed GCSEs being ‘significantly worse for the mental health of students’.
Man City footballer, 16, scores solid GCSE results
Manchester City footballer Anna Phillips, 16, scooped ten GCSEs including six grade 7s
A young woman footballer has hit the back of the net with her solid GCSE results – after having to tackle both revision and training at the same time.
Manchester City player Anna Phillips, 16, scooped ten GCSEs – one 8 in design and technology, six grade 7s in subjects including maths, sciences, RE and food technology, one 6 in English Literature and two 5s in English language and sports.
Bolton School pupil Anna said: ‘I train five times a week and play a match once a week so it was challenging to find time to revise – sometimes I revised in the car on the way. It was hard to juggle, but managed to do it!’
The rising football star has played for Manchester City for two and a half seasons, and was selected to play for the under 16s England squad earlier this year.
The teen will now move onto studying at Bolton Sixth Form College in September, and has hopes of travelling to America to study sport at university in the future.
She said: ‘Removing coursework and having most subjects assessed entirely by exams taken at the end of Year 11 makes GCSEs an all-or-nothing, high-stakes experience for students, completely unnecessarily, and focuses study on what will be best for passing the exam, rather than on developing a wider skill set.
‘To add to this, both the difficulty and size of GCSE content has increased with the reforms.
‘The result is that the majority of schools are feeling forced to start GCSE courses in Year 9, or even earlier, with a view to getting through everything.’
She added: ‘The current system has so many negative side effects that a re-think is sorely needed.
‘As a start, schools should be freed from the straitjackets of Progress 8 and EBacc and empowered to act upon their professional expertise in helping students decide which courses to take.’
Most respondents to an Association of School and College Leaders survey of 554 schools in England said the new exams were tougher, reported BBC News.
One deputy headteacher said: ‘Lower-attaining students are completely demoralised by these exams.
‘We have an increasing number refusing to attempt mocks and actual exams. This has never happened before.’
The content of the exams has been made more challenging, with less coursework, and exams at the end of the two-year courses, rather than throughout.
Another assistant headteacher said: ‘These have been designed without a thought for low prior attaining or SEN (special educational needs) students.
A pupil receives a hug after picking up her GCSE grades today at Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School in Crosby, Merseyside
Alexandra Akins, with her mother Lorell, reads her GCSE results at King Edward VI High School for Girls in Birmingham today
Joe Beadman hugs Somto Elumogo as they celebrate with their GCSE results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning
A teenager at Bolton School in Greater Manchester looks through his GCSE results this morning
Pupils at St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School in central Bristol celebrate their GCSE results today
GCSE pass rate by region
Here is the GCSE pass rate (entries awarded grades C/4 and above) broken down by nation and by region.
The figure in brackets is the change in percentage points on 2018.
- England 67.1% (up 0.5)
- Wales 62.8% (up 1.2)
- Northern Ireland 82.2% (up 1.1)
- North-east England 63.8% (down 0.7)
- North-west England 64.9% (up 0.3)
- Yorkshire & Humber 64.1% (up 0.5)
- West Midlands 63.8% (up 0.7)
- East Midlands 65.8% (up 0.7)
- Eastern England 67.1% (no change)
- South-west England 68.3% (up 0.5)
- South-east England 70.2% (up 0.6)
- London 70.6% (up 0.4)
GCSE A/7+ rate by region
Here are the figures for entries awarded grades A/7 and above.
The figure in brackets is the change in percentage points on 2018:
- England 20.7% (up 0.4)
- Wales 18.4% (down 0.1)
- Northern Ireland 30.5% (up 1.1)
- North-east England 16.4% (down 0.3)
- North-west England 18.6% (up 0.4)
- Yorkshire & Humber 17.8% (up 0.7)
- West Midlands 18.1% (up 0.6)
- East Midlands 18.3% (up 0.6)
- Eastern England 20.5% (up 0.1)
- South-west England 20.4% (up 0.2)
- South-east England 23.5% (up 0.1)
- London 25.7% (up 0.6)
‘I cannot think of anything more dispiriting than going through school thinking every day ‘I cannot do this’ – but that is the reality for many students.’
Top results for refugee who started GCSEs with no knowledge of English
A Syrian refugee who started her GCSEs last year with no knowledge of English has achieved a string of top results which mean she can work towards her dream of becoming a doctor.
Haneen Al-Ghazawi, 17, gained the highest 9 grade in philosophy, theology and ethics and Arabic, as well as grade 8 in maths, biology, chemistry and physics at Bede Academy in Blyth, Northumberland.
Syrian refugee student Haneen Al-Ghazawi with her mother Maha, at Bede Academy in Blyth, Northumberland, today
This summer she has taken part in a medicine summer school at Cambridge University and will now study A-levels in physics, chemistry, biology and maths.
She said: ‘During the exams I only got four or five hours sleep a night so it was a lot of work. I loved Cambridge, it was just great and I really want to go there to study medicine.’
She left Syria in 2012 with her mother Maha and brother Anas to escape the war. Their father had died and they spent six years in Jordan before they moved to Blyth.
She said: ‘My mother was not allowed to work in Jordan, it is very expensive there and university places for medicine are kept for Jordanians, so we couldn’t stay. We are happy in the UK.’
Her mother said: ‘She likes to learn and she has a very good opportunity here to become a doctor.’
Principal Andrew Thelwell said: ‘The dedication and tenacity demonstrated by Haneen has resulted in exceptional achievement. She has made a great impact on the lives of students here and we are delighted she is staying on in our sixth form.’
The new 9-1 grading system means it is harder to score a clean sweep of the highest possible grades.
A further school leader said: ‘A large proportion of students are being failed by the new GCSEs.
‘Not everyone is suited to them and, while they may be a good pathway for those students going on to A-level or degree level, they are simply not fit for purpose for students who may thrive with a more vocational route.
‘These students are made to feel they are constantly failing no matter how hard they work because they struggle to retain the list of endless facts they need for their exams.’
As hundreds of thousands of youngsters opened their exam results, Mr Johnson said: ‘Huge congratulations to everyone receiving their GCSE results today.
‘I’m delighted to see an increase in those studying EBacc subjects – including science, computing and foreign languages – as well as creative studies, meaning pupils are getting the rigorous yet well-rounded education they need.
‘As I said last week, my Government will do all we can to increase funding for education and to give schools the powers they need to deal with bad behaviour and bullying so pupils continue to learn effectively.’
Footballer Luke Matheson, who plays for Rochdale in League One, was awarded the highest GCSE PE mark at Trinity Church of England High School.
The school tweeted: ‘Great attitude to learning and a role model to our students. Super results whilst progressing through the teams @RochdaleAcademy.
‘Next step, combining A levels @TrinityHigh6th and first team football @officiallydale £TeamTrinity.’
Girls are now catching up with boys and scoring top grades in GCSE maths and physics.
Girls are achieving increasing numbers of grade 7 or above in the two subjects, in which their male classmates have traditionally scored better.
The number of boys achieving top grades in maths dropped slightly this year, with 16.7 per cent of male entries being awarded a grade 7 or higher, compared to 16.8 per cent last year.
At the same time, the number of girls getting top maths marks rose, with 15.5 per cent of female maths entries receiving a grade 7 or higher, compared to 14.9 per cent in 2018.
Natalia Stepniak (left), who achieved six 9s and three 8s, and Amina Ibrahim (right), who achieved four 9s, three 8s and 7s, open their GCSE results at Whalley Range 11-18 High School in Manchester this morning
Pupils from Campbell College in East Belfast get their GCSE results. Pictured with headmaster Robert Robinson MBE are George Robinson (left) and Ben Coulter (right), who achieved 11 A* /A equivalent grades
Students Ranita Addo (left) and Julia Sinchukovska (right) react at the City of London Academy in Hackney this morning
Student Mona Abou Dahech (left) fist bumps a fellow pupil on GCSE results day at the City of London Academy today
Pupils at St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School in central Bristol open their GCSE results today
There were similar trends in physics, as 42 per cent of female entrants got a grade 7 or higher, up from 39.9 per cent last year, as the number of male entries getting top grades in the subject climbed to 45.9 per cent, from 45.5 per cent in 2018.
How girls are closing the achievement gap in maths and physics GCSEs
Girls are catching up with boys and scoring top grades in GCSE maths and physics.
Girls are achieving increasing numbers of grade 7 or above in the two subjects, in which their male classmates have traditionally scored better.
The number of boys achieving top grades in maths dropped slightly this year, with 16.7% of male entries being awarded a grade 7 or higher, compared to 16.8% last year.
At the same time, the number of girls getting top maths marks rose, with 15.5% of female maths entries receiving a grade 7 or higher, compared to 14.9% in 2018.
There were similar trends in physics, as 42% of female entrants got a grade 7 or higher, up from 39.9% last year, as the number of male entries getting top grades in the subject climbed to 45.9%, from 45.5% in 2018.
The figures come in the same year that female entries for GCSE computer science climbed by 14%.
The figures come in the same year that female entries for GCSE computer science climbed by 14 per cent.
Girls also continue to outnumber boys at the highest levels of achievement, as two-thirds of the students awarded straight 9 grades were female.
In total, 837 students who took seven or more GCSEs got grade 9s in all of their subjects, of these students, 556 were girls, and 281 were boys.
One scientist determined to get more girls interested in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects was pleased to hear of girls’ achievements.
Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon, CEO of Stemmettes said: ‘This is welcome news and confirms what we already knew – science and maths are for everyone, of all genders.
‘We can’t wait to see what this generation achieves in terms of innovation and solving the world’s problems with their knowledge, without the weight of outdated stereotypes and sexist biases.’
Meanwhile, the number of girls doing computing at GCSE has risen with female entries up 14 per cent.
Computing entries saw an increase overall of 7.2 per cent to 80,027, with the the number of female entries up from 15,046 in 2018 to 17,158 in 2019.
Pupils from Campbell College in East Belfast get their GCSE results. Pictured are twins Nathan (left) and Aaron Cochrane (right) with their mother, Cleone Cochrane
Students react after opening their results on GCSE results day at Ffynone House School in Swansea today
Pupils from Campbell College in East Belfast get their GCSE results. George Robinson (left), Finlay Stafford, Josh Moore and Ben Coulter (right) are pictured, who all achieved 11 A* or A grades
Molly Hopkins and Ffion Young pose for a selfie on GCSE results day at Ffynone House School in Swansea today
Pupils at St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School in central Bristol open their GCSE results today
Females continued to outperform males in the subject, with 24.9 per cent of females compared to 20.8 per cent of males scoring the top grades – at least a 7 or an A grade.
Student gets straight 9s despite chronic illnesses
Alicia Daley shows off her grade 9 results in Birmingham
A student has battled debilitating chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia to secure nine of the highest GCSE grades.
Alicia Daley, 16, said at one point she thought it would be ‘impossible’ to get the grades she desperately wanted after her diagnosis when she was 13.
Both conditions are long-term illnesses causing extreme tiredness and, in the case of fibromyalgia, chronic and widespread pain.
But the teenager was celebrating with other pupils at King Edward VI High School for Girls in Edgbaston, Birmingham, today.
Alicia found out she had secured eight 9s – the highest possible grade – and also the top grade in additional maths – a grade A – when she opened her results.
Alicia Daley with her mother Lana and younger sister Isabella
She said: ‘I was diagnosed in Year 8, when I was 13, and then I missed most of Year 9 – I had about 27 per cent attendance. The doctor said, ‘you can do English literature and English and maths’, and that was it.
Alicia added: ‘There was a time I didn’t think I’d do very well. I thought it was impossible.’
Some 66.2 per cent of females scored at least a 4 or a C grade, compared to 61.7 per cent of males. However, female entries in computing were only 21.4 per cent of the total student numbers.
There were 62,869 male entries, and an increase in the number scoring top grades from 20.1 per cent in 2018 to 20.8 per cent in 2019.
The number of students taking language GCSEs has jumped by almost 10,000, as Spanish entries topped 100,000 for the first time.
There were 308,047 entries into modern foreign language GCSEs in 2019, an increase of three percent on 2018’s total of 299,172.
There were 102,242 GCSEs awarded in Spanish this year, a 7.5 per cent increase on the number of students taking the exam last year.
French also saw a three percent increase in uptake, with 130,831 entries in 2019, up from 126,750 in 2018. This is only the second time the number of French entries has increased year-on-year since 2001.
However, despite the popularity of French and Spanish, other modern foreign languages are struggling to attract students.
The number of German entries fell to 42,791 this year, down almost four percent on 2018 when 44,535 qualifications were awarded.
More niche languages also saw a drop in numbers, with Chinese falling from 4,410 entries to 3,201, and Bengali having only 570 entries, compared to 648 last year.
In 2010, there were 362,338 entries for modern foreign languages, including almost 330,000 for French, Spanish and German.
The British Council believe people should be aware of the significant decrease in languages students over the last ten years.
Vicky Gough, the organisation’s schools adviser said: ‘It’s encouraging that GCSE numbers are picking up, but this has to be seen as a slight recovery from a huge drop over more than a decade.
‘Languages underpin our relationships with other countries. They are vital to the UK’s future prosperity, security, and global influence and they are important to pupils because they open doors to new people, places, and cultures.’
(Left to right) Scarlett Ududy, Frankie Riordan and Ellie Hobden celebrate with their GCSE results at Norwich School today
Bethan Thomas (centre) reacts after opening her results on GCSE results day at Ffynone House School in Swansea today
Becky Haddon is left in tears after receiving her GCSE results at King Edward VI High School for Girls in Birmingham today
Georgia Davies smiles after opening her results on GCSE results day at Ffynone House School in Swansea this morning
Yesterday, head teachers warned parents not to make their children feel like ‘failures’ if they miss out on all grade 9s – with less than 0.2 per cent expected to achieve this.
Girl, 16, was taken out of GCSE exam before being told she had cancer
Hannah Fraser, 17
A schoolgirl who complained of feeling tired was taken out of her GCSE exam before being told she had cancer.
Hannah Fraser, of Formby, Merseyside, was taken away from the exam hall at Range High School, on May 18 last year and told to meet her father by the headteacher, who said to her ‘you need to go to hospital, you’ll be okay’.
Doctors at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital found a tumour had shown up on a scan, then Hannah was told she was suffering from a cancer called Hodgkin Lymphoma.
Despite Hannah then undergoing chemotherapy, she decided to carry on doing the rest of her GCSE exams at home with an invigilator.
And on August 22 last year, she discovered she had achieved seven including English, maths and science.
Hannah Fraser, in hospital with a nurse during her treatment
Hannah said: ‘I didn’t really expect to pass any of them. I didn’t want to open my results with everyone else, they were all really happy with their results. So my teacher took me into her office and said go on open them.
‘When I opened the envelope I burst out crying I couldn’t believe it, I rang my mum crying. She was standing with the other mums and she thought I was crying because I was upset at first but they were happy tears.’
Then on October 16 last year, Hannah got a phone call from Alder Hey to say she had come to the end of her treatment – just days before her 17th birthday.
School standards minister Nick Gibb told ITV’s Good Morning Britain today: ‘Stress has always been there, it always will be there – but we don’t want young people to be unfairly stressed.’
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson added: ‘Congratulations to all of those who are picking up their GCSE results today – I remember the nerves and excitement that came with waiting for mine like it was yesterday.
‘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 opportunities that await them are the best they’ve ever been, so whether they go on to do A-levels, an apprenticeship, technical or vocational qualification, they will do so with the skills they need to thrive in 21st century Britain, and support this country as we build for the future.’
Some experts have labelled the new GCSEs a farce, because exam boards have been ordered to set the grade boundaries low so that students are ‘not disadvantaged’ by the exams being harder.
After this fiddling around, 20 per cent of entries will get at least a grade 7 – equivalent to the old A –while two thirds will get at least a 4, equivalent to the old C.
The toughest aspect is the greater differentiation at the top, with 7, 8 and 9 replacing the old A and A* and the grade 9 representing the very top portion of the old A*.
The new exams have been gradually phased in since 2017 and this year all but two were in the reformed format.
According to analysis by Education Datalab, 818 students got a clean sweep of grade 9s last year.
Sally-Anne Huang, vice chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), which represents the top private schools, warned that even top students may miss out on grade 9s.
‘The top grade 9 is harder to achieve,’ she said. ‘Only a tiny percentage of people are ever going to get all 9s.
‘So it’s really important for the adults, who are supporting their children through their GCSEs, that they understand that an 8 or a 7 is also a huge achievement.
‘It’s important that we don’t make our young people feel that because they haven’t got the top grades in everything that’s a failure.’
Geoff Barton, ASCL general secretary, said there were concerns some pupils would be ‘written off’.
He said: ‘(New GCSEs) are harder in two respects; the content is definitely harder, but also the mode of assessment is harder for some students.
(From left) Emily Fox, Isabel Drugan and Becky Haddon get their results at KEHS in Birmingham this morning
(From left) Somto Elumogo, Elsa Ardern and Alice-Lily Nnene celebrate with their GCSE results at Norwich School today
Anna Jones looks at her seven 9s and two 8s with friends today at Parrs Wood High School in Didsbury, Greater Manchester
Alexia Selzer with her mother Adriana getting her GCSE results at King Edward VI High School for Girls in Birmingham today
Lucy Garside and Grace Murray celebrate with their GCSE results at Norwich School in Norfolk this morning
‘We are concerned for those young people, that in a qualification that is called a general qualification, it appears to have as collateral damage a third of young people who get a 3, a 2 or a 1 in English and maths and are told they haven’t met national standards.
Guy Chambers’s son, 16, gets string of 8s and 9s
Marley Chambers, 16, smiles after getting his GCSE results at Brighton College today
The son of leading songwriter Guy Chambers achieved an impressive set of GCSE results at Brighton College.
Marley Chambers, 16, is the son of Guy, whose hits include the legendary Angels for Robbie Williams.
Today he picked up his results at the college in East Sussex, and found he had achieved 9s in chemistry, history, physics, art and Latin, 8s in biology, maths, French, English language and English literature, and a 7 in Greek.
Marley is closely involved with music at college, as an impressive drummer playing regularly in the school’s swing band – and the group recently went to Barcelona to perform.
His father Guy Chambers wrote Angels for Robbie Williams
He wants to continue his interest in music alongside his A-levels next year, and will be studying maths, art, history and Latin.
Marley’s father Guy has recently teamed up again with Robbie Williams to write a West End musical for the Royal Shakespeare Company based on David Walliams’s acclaimed story The Boy In The Dress.
‘At the current rate it’s going to be a long time until you don’t have a third of young people written off because they got 3s, 2s and 1s.’
Yesterday, ASCL, the union for secondary heads, said eight in ten of its members claim the new exams are ‘failing’ low-ability pupils because the hard content is ‘dispiriting’.
One deputy head said: ‘Lower attaining students are completely demoralised. We have an increasing number refusing to attempt mocks and actual exams.’
Meanwhile, the National Education Union said a survey of classroom teachers had found 73 per cent thought the reforms had ‘worsened student mental health’.
The new exams, pioneered by then education secretary Michael Gove, were introduced to address concerns of ‘dumbing down’ and grade inflation under New Labour.
Previously, Mr Williamson said: ‘We will continue to focus on discipline, outcomes and standards, so that young people will get a better and better education.’
‘Today is a proud day for students, teachers and parents up and down the country, and I wish them all the very best for their results.
‘It should also be an exciting day. It’s a day that marks the culmination of years of hard work and opens doors that can create life-changing opportunities.’
Last year, one in five UK entries (20.5 per cent) picked up at least a 7 or an A grade, roughly in line with previous years.
Around two thirds (66.9 per cent) of UK entries were awarded at least grade 4, or C, last summer, according to data published by the Joint Council for Qualifications.
Separate figures, published by exams regulator Ofqual, showed that just 732 16-year-olds in England taking at least seven new GCSEs scored straight 9s – the highest grade available under the new system – in all subjects.
This is just a tiny fraction (0.1 per cent) of the more than half a million teenagers in England who take GCSEs.
Philip Nye, researcher at Education Datalab said the numbers getting straight grade 9s ‘might go up a little bit because there are more subjects in the 9-1 system, but it is very difficult to say what will happen.’
Three girls open their GCSE results at a school in Oldbury in the West Midlands on ITV’s Good Morning Britain today
A girl who got a 7 in geography is overcome with emotion while opening her results in Oldbury today on the ITV show
Students open their GCSE results at the school in Oldbury on ITV’s Good Morning Britain today
Of those who got a clean sweep last year, 62 per cent were female and 38 per cent male.
Numbers getting clean sweep of 9s in new system rises to 837
More than 800 teenagers scored a clean sweep of the highest grade in their GCSEs this summer, with more girls achieving straight top grades than boys.
Figures published by exams regulator Ofqual showed that just 837 16-year-olds in England taking at least seven new GCSEs scored a clean sweep of straight 9s – the highest grade available under the new system – in all subjects.
This is just a tiny fraction (0.1%) of the more than half a million teenagers in England who take GCSEs.
This summer’s clean sweep figure is up from 732 16-year-olds in 2018, with the increase being put down to a higher number of students taking all of their GCSEs on the reformed numbered grading system.
Of the 837 youngsters who achieved a clean sweep, 66.4 per cent were girls and 33.6 per cent were boys. Last summer, 62 per cent of the straight 9 achievers were girls, and 38 per cent were boys.
A total of 10 students scored grade 9 in 12 GCSEs, while most of the students (293) who achieved the clean sweep of grade 9s were studying a total of 10 GCSEs.
Under England’s exams overhaul, GCSEs have been toughened up, with less coursework, and exams at the end of the two-year courses, rather than throughout.
Traditional A*-G grades have been scrapped and replaced with a 9-1 system, with 9 the highest result.
A 4 is broadly equivalent to a C grade, and a 7 broadly equivalent to an A.
Most students receiving GCSE results this summer will get numerical grades for all their subjects as almost all courses have now moved over to the new system.
A total of 25 subjects will be awarded new grades for the first time this year.
GCSE courses are also taken by students in Wales and Northern Ireland where there have been separate exam reforms.
A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘Exams are an essential part of ensuring that young people have acquired the knowledge and skills they need, but should never be at the expense of a young person’s wellbeing.’
In Northern Ireland, the number of top GCSE results dropped by 2.2 percentage points following a shake-up of the grading system.
This was the first year a new A* to G grading system was used for all locally-awarded qualifications to bring them into line with that in England.
Michael Gove first introduced the significant change in a bid to drive up standards.
Northern Ireland’s A* issued by the local awarding body has this year been fully realigned to the 9 grade in England. A new C* has also been introduced.
Michael Gove instigated exam reforms following ‘dumbing down’ fears
Former education secretary Michael Gove, pictured on August 6 at Downing Street
The changes to GCSE exams come after major reforms in England started by former education secretary Michael Gove in 2011.
A review of the national curriculum was announced first, with the overhaul of GCSEs starting in 2013.
Mr Gove wanted to toughen up the qualifications and the introduction of a new 9-1 grading system, replacing A*-G grades, following concerns about ‘dumbing down’ and grade inflation.
For example, in the reformed maths GCSE, there is enhanced content in topics such as ratio, proportion and rates of change.
In the new English language GCSE, there is greater emphasis on spelling and grammar – while in English literature a wider range of reading is required.
In 2014, Mr Gove said the new tougher GCSE courses ‘set higher expectations’, adding ‘they demand more from all students and specifically provide further challenge to those aiming to achieve top grades’.
A* grades dropped by 2.2 percentage points from 9.9 per cent last year to 7.7 per cent. The proportion of candidates awarded A*-C increased by 1.1 percentage points from 81.1 per cent last year to 80.7 per cent.
Overall, students performed well, with slight increases at grade C and above. Boys narrowed the performance gap with girls to 7.1 percentage points.
GCSE maths saw a 3.2 percentage point increase at A*-C from 68.1 per cent to 71.3 per cent.
In 2016 former DUP education minister Peter Weir decided that Northern Ireland should realign to the new English grading system.
That overturned a decision not to do so a year earlier by his predecessor as minister, John O’Dowd, which led the two largest English GCSE exam boards to say they would not offer GCSE courses in Northern Ireland..
In Northern Ireland this year, 30.5 per cent of boys and girls received an A. That compares with 20.8% across the UK as a whole. A quarter of boys and 35.7 per cent of girls obtained an A.
In English there was a half a percentage point increase at grade C and above, and maths saw a 3.3 percentage point increase.
More pupils were studying subjects like health and social care, construction and drama, and fewer students took German, ICT and Spanish.
Science single award moved out of the most popular subjects for boys and was replaced by geography. Home economics and ICT was replaced by history and single award science among girls.
A 1.4 percentage point decrease in proportional entry for STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) was noted but it was too early to discern a trend.
There was a 0.3 percentage point decrease in proportional entries for languages.
This year saw a 5.2 per cent decline in the number of entries. The trend was particularly marked among 15 and 17-year-olds.
Key changes in new GCSE grading system as part of education reforms that began under the coalition
What is the new grading system?
– Traditional A* to G grades have been replaced with a 9 to 1 system, with 9 the highest mark.
– English and maths GCSEs – core subjects taken by all teenagers – were the first to move to the new system, with numerical grades awarded for these courses for the first time in 2017.
– Last summer, another 20 subjects had new grades awarded for the first time, including core academic courses such as the sciences, history, geography and modern foreign languages.
– This summer, new grades will be awarded for the first time in a further 25 subjects including business, design and technology, and many languages such as Chinese and Italian.
– This change is only happening in England.
Why was the grading system changed?
– The move is part of a wider reform of exams which has seen a complete overhaul of the content and structure of GCSEs.
– Schools and colleges have been teaching these new GCSEs for the last three to four years, and it is only now that grades are starting to be awarded.
– The new courses feature much less coursework than the old GCSE qualifications, and modular courses, which saw pupils sit papers throughout their studies, have been scrapped in favour of ‘linear’ GCSEs in which pupils take all of their exams at the end of the two-year course.
– The new grading system is meant to clearly distinguish new courses from the old qualifications.
What does this mean for students?
– In general, a grade 7-9 is roughly equivalent to A-A* under the old system, while a grade 4 and above is roughly equivalent to a C and above.
– Fewer students will receive a grade 9 than would have received an A* under the old grading system. This is because part of the reason for introducing a new grading system was to allow more differentiation among the brightest students.
– Last year, 732 16-year-olds in England taking at least seven new GCSEs scored a clean sweep of grade 9s in all subjects.
– This year, most teenagers are likely to get numerical grades for all of their subjects, as almost all subjects have now moved over to the new grading system.
Isn’t this all confusing?
– There have been concerns raised in the past that the system may be confusing, for example to parents, or businesses presented with potential job candidates with different types of grades.
– Different bodies, including England’s exams regulator Ofqual, have been publishing materials about the change and working to publicise the reforms.
How have we got to this stage?
– Education reforms in England began in 2011, led by then-education secretary Michael Gove. A review of the national curriculum was announced first, with the overhaul of GCSEs starting in 2013.
– In 2014, Mr Gove said the new tougher GCSE courses ‘set higher expectations’, adding ‘they demand more from all students and specifically provide a further challenge to those aiming to achieve top grades’.
Double celebration for one school as nine sets of twins collect results
A headteacher has praised nine sets of twins in just one year at her school for their hard work as the students collected their GCSE results.
The 18 youngsters achieved their successes at Robert May’s School in Odiham, Hampshire.
The twins have worked with each other since they all joined the school together in year 7, and said they overcame sibling rivalry to work together.
The nine sets of twins who sat their GCSE exams at Robert May’s School this year, (back row left to right) Harry Wall (missing his twin Jack), Rosie and Helena Dolan, Nya and Lyndon Halliday, Cara and Ellie Holmes-Henderson, (front row, left to right) Lucy and Eleanor Whittaker, Lauren and Holly Collins, Hattie and Clara Miles, Jaiden and Cameron Hall, and Liam and Ashley Thompson, celebrating their results at Robert May’s School in Odiham, Hampshire, today
Rosie Dolan, 16, who achieved a place on a renowned course run by Formula 1 team Williams, said she and sister Helena enjoyed working together, but are now preparing to study at separate colleges.
The 16-year-old, who is interested in engineering, said: ‘I am really happy, I got everything I needed. We got compared a lot whenever we do something so it will be nice to be more individual and known for yourself – we spend enough time together anyway.’
Helena, who wants to go into medicine, added: ‘I have done really well, we have done different subjects already so we haven’t always been together.’
Their mother, Marianne, from Hartley Wintney, said: ‘I am so proud of both of them. They have been so calm through the whole process, they haven’t, as my grandmother would call it, thrown a ‘wibbly wobbly’, they have done the work and deserve the prize. They are both so different and done what they want.’
The 18 youngsters achieved their successes at Robert May’s School in Odiham, Hampshire. The twins have worked with each other since they all joined the school together in year 7, and said they overcame sibling rivalry to work together
Lyndon Halliday, who was celebrating with his sister, Nya, said: ‘It went really well. I wasn’t stressed too much but got a bit stressed today before getting the results.’
Nya added: ‘I am happy, I am really pleased with my English Lit.’
Their mother, Rochelle, said: ‘They are academically similar, they supported each other more than any rivalry between them, we are very proud of them.’
Cara and Eloise Holmes-Henderson agreed that they were able to support each other during their revision.
Eloise said: ‘We are quite competitive but it was nice to know someone else was right there and we could talk to each other about it.’
Tom Rhys, head of year, said: ‘It’s important to remember we have nine twins but 18 individuals who would all have experienced the exam period in different ways, they all worked incredibly hard, and we are proud of every one of them. It’s been a real privilege to see them achieve after so much hard work.’
Headteacher Joanna Collyer West said: ‘We are sad to see the twins go, they have been a tremendous part of a lovely cohort and we wish them all the very best with their futures.’
Stephen Fry says he ‘gets very upset’ at ‘how stressed children get over exams’ because results ‘never really matter’ as he admits he did ‘miserably’ in his O-Levels
Stephen Fry has said he gets upset seeing the pressures and stress children face regarding exams, and that ultimately he believes results ‘never really matter’.
The broadcaster, 61, was speaking as pupils received their GCSE results across the UK.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘I get very upset when I see how stressed children are sometimes by exams, the pressure that’s put on them, either by themselves, by their mates or by their teachers or parents.
‘I think, like a lot of things in the world, it matters at the time but it never matters in the end, and that is true of so many things in our lives – they matter desperately at the time but they never really matter.’
The actor, comedian and writer said his own early exam performance was ‘miserable’ and the type of person you become matters more.
He said: ‘I can understand why people get upset and they think ‘I’ve failed’ but you don’t fail. I did miserably in my GCSEs – they were called O-levels in my day – but managed to blag my way to get some A-levels and then slowly I got the learning bug, but it doesn’t matter in the end.
‘What matters is what kind of person you are, curiosity, staying alert and interested, there is always another chance and I would always rather be an unqualified success than a qualified success.’
Broadcaster Stephen Fry was speaking on BBC Breakfast this morning as pupils received their GCSE results across the UK
Hundreds of thousands of youngsters received their results on Thursday after sitting the Government’s tough new GCSE courses.
Celebrities were among those taking to social media to wish pupils good luck and share advice if the results are not what they hoped for.
Strictly Come Dancing professional dancer Neil Jones wrote on Instagram: ‘Good luck today to everyone who is waiting to get your exam results and remember it doesn’t matter what result you get. If you really want to do something you will find a way.’
Love Island 2017 winner Amber Davies’s message had a personal edge as she tweeted: ‘Happy GCSE RESULTS DAY! can’t believe my little cousin is receiving his… GOOD LUCK and have the best celebration tonight.’
Britain’s toughest ‘Tiger Teacher’ live tweets GCSE pupils’ exam joy as free school she set up five years ago scores incredible haul of top grades that are well above national average
A ‘Tiger Teacher’ headmistress famous for her school being dubbed the ‘strictest in Britain’ has today celebrated an impressive set of results.
Katharine Birbalsingh, 46, saw 54 per cent of all exams graded 7 to 9 at Michaela Community School, which is in a deprived area of Brent, North West London.
She tweeted a series of videos of delighted students picking up their results at today, saying: ‘Happy Michaela pupils! Happy Michaela headmistress!’
Students from Michaela Community School in London, dubbed the ‘strictest in Britain’, today celebrated an impressive set of results with the release of the GCSE on Thursday (Michaela Community School pupils are pictured with headmistress Katharine Birbalsingh, second right)
Headmistress Katharine Birbalsingh, 46, saw 54 per cent of all exams graded 7 to 9 at Michaela Community School, which is in a deprived area of Brent, North West London
The school has hit the headlines for giving pupils detention for slouching in their chairs, using a mobile phone or wearing make-up or jewellery (Pictured: A student reading his GCSE results)
The school has hit the headlines in recent years for giving pupils detention for slouching in their chairs, using a mobile phone or wearing make-up or jewellery.
But its strict behavioural policy appears to be paying dividends, with 18 per cent of pupils’ exams this year graded 9, compared to a national average of 4.5 per cent.
More than 90 per cent of entries to maths, English, RE, modern foreign languages and double science achieved grades between 4 and 9.
In triple science, every pupil achieved a level 8 or 9, and Ms Birbalsingh said it was ‘so exciting to see the progress our kids have made over five years’.
Uts strict behavioural policy appears to be paying dividends, with 18 per cent of pupils’ exams this year graded 9, compared to a national average of 4.5 per cent
More than 90 per cent of entries to maths, English, RE, modern foreign languages and double science achieved grades between 4 and 9
In triple science, every pupil achieved a level 8 or 9, and Ms Birbalsingh said it was ‘so exciting to see the progress our kids have made over five years’
Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan said: ‘Take a moment to think of what Katharine Birbalsingh has achieved. She fought the bureaucracy to establish a free school.
‘Many of her intake came from disadvantaged backgrounds. She put her trust in old-fashioned teaching methods. Now, five years on, this is the result. Heroine.’
The school hit the headlines in 2016 when a pupil was given a sandwich and piece of fruit to eat in ‘lunch isolation’ when his parents did not pay the termly dinner fee.
Ms Birbalsingh and her staff were trolled on social media and even received death threats over the incident, but the headteacher remained unrepentant.
A Conservative MEP praised Ms Birbalsingh, saying: ‘Take a moment to think of what Katharine Birbalsingh has achieved. She fought the bureaucracy to establish a free school’
Another happy GCSE student is photographed at the school in North West London
Ms Birbalsingh has previously claimed middle-class parents are more likely to have a problem with its strict nature and added they would ‘balk’ at the level of discipline
She also faced ridicule from teaching unions at the Conservative party conference in 2010 where she promoted a strict, old-fashioned approach to learning.
Pupils do not speak in lessons and walk to classes in single file. One student even claimed to have been punished for accidentally dropping her pencil case.
The school is in a deprived area near Wembley Stadium, with most pupils coming from families so poor that they qualify for the pupil premium grant.
Ms Birbalsingh has previously claimed middle-class parents are more likely to have a problem with its strict nature and added they would ‘balk’ at the level of discipline.
Young pilot, 16, celebrates her GCSEs after achieving highest grade in exam she sat on day she earned wings
A schoolgirl is today celebrating her GCSE results after achieving her highest grade in an exam she sat on the same day she earned her pilot wings.
Elizabeth Ormston, 16, became one of the youngest UK pilots to earn her solo wings just two hours after sitting a two-and-a-half hour GCSE English literature exam.
On the afternoon of May 22 this year, following the exam earlier that morning, Elizabeth flew an Icarus C42 solo around an airfield – just eight days after her 16th birthday.
Elizabeth Ormston opens her results with friends Freddie Scott (left) and Lucy Howells this morning at King’s School in Winchester
Today the bright teenager, who hopes to become a commercial pilot in her 20s, picked up her GCSE results and was delighted to discover her English literature score was her highest (seven).
Elizabeth, a pupil at Kings’ School in Winchester, Hants, also achieved an impressive seven in English language and passed all of her subjects including photography (seven), maths (six), French (six), geography (six), physics (six), psychology (five), and biology (five).
She will now attend Peter Symonds sixth form college in Winchester where she will study for A levels in biology, psychology, criminology and sociology, before moving on to flight school to become a commercial pilot.
Today the young pilot said: ‘I’m overwhelmed, it hasn’t really sunk in just yet. I’m really surprised with my French result, I did better than I expected – it’s good to have that skill for when I fly over to France one day.’
Elizabeth is celebrating her results after achieving her highest grade in an exam she sat on the same day she earned her pilot wings
Watched on by parents Lisa, 47, and Andy, 43, Elizabeth, from Basingstoke, Hampshire, earned her wings at Popham Airfield, near Basingstoke, following the English literature exam. And she is glad the day turned out to be an all-round success.
Today she added: ‘I am really pleased with my English literature result. After I sat the exam I went straight to the airfield and did the solo flight, so I forgot about the exam really.
‘I’m looking forward to studying for my A levels and then moving on to flight school. I still plan to be a commercial pilot and would hope to become one during my twenties. I’m still training for my full pilot licence which I can be tested for on my 17th birthday in May.’
Trainee pilots are not allowed to fly solo until they are aged 16 – and cannot earn a full pilot license from the Civil Aviation Authority until they are 17.
Elizabeth is pictured during her solo flight. She has now been authorised by the Microlight Aircraft Association to fly unaccompanied
Elizabeth has now been authorised by the Microlight Aircraft Association to fly unaccompanied near Popham Airfield as she prepares to take her full test.
She added: ‘I have known I wanted to be a pilot since I was ten years old, it’s all I’ve wanted to do.’
After passing her test in May, director of AirBourne Aviation Matthew Myatt said: ‘I was so proud to see Elizabeth fly solo for the first time, she has flying in her bones.
‘She is one of the best young pilots we have here, which is why I had every confidence she would be able to complete the flight despite her age.
‘We give most adults about 35 hours of flying time before we allow them to fly solo – but Elizabeth had just 20. She executed the flight perfectly… It is even more impressive that she completed the flight during the stress of her GCSE exams.’
‘Five years of b****** and I passed everything!’: GCSE pupils share joy and despair after finding out exam grades today
Pupils around the country are either jumping for joy or in the depths of despair after the GCSE results were released on Thursday morning.
Many took to social media to boast about their excitement and pride in their grades with hilarious memes and tweets, while other revealed they were surprised to pass classes they thought they would fail.
One tweeted out their results paper with the caption: ‘5 years of b****** and I passed everything!’
But there were students who took to Twitter to bravely share their disappointment, including, one simply wrote: ‘RIP Me’, while another said: ‘My life is f***** over’.
Half a million 16-year-olds will find out at around 10am today how they got on after becoming the first year-group whose exams were almost all in the tougher new format.
The content has been made more challenging, with less coursework, and exams at the end of the two-year courses, rather than throughout.
The new 9-1 grading system replaces A* to E and allows greater differentiation between grades. It means it is harder to score a clean sweep of the highest possible grades.
Head teachers have warned parents not to make their children feel like ‘failures’ if they miss out on all grade 9s – with less than 0.2 per cent expected to achieve this.
And teaching unions said low-ability pupils were so ‘demoralised’ by the new exams this year that some refused to sit them.
Here we look at just some of the memes and images flooding the internet after the results were released.
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