The results for more than five million GCSE entries show A* to C grades have risen slightly this year, but slightly fewer top A* and A grades have been awarded. The proportion of A* to C grades rose to 69%, up from 68.8% last year, but A* grades fell by 0.1 percentage points. In line with last week's A-Level results, the national GCSE results are stable compared with last year.
In maths, those achieving A*-C grades increased from 62.4% to 63.3%. There were also improvements in A*-C grades for English, physics, chemistry and biology. But fewer entries for the double science GCSE were awarded good grades.
The best results came in Northern Ireland, as last year, where the proportion achieving A*-C grades rose from 78% to 78.7%. In Wales, there was no change, at 66%.
There have been changes in the age groups of pupils taking GCSEs this year and this is thought to have influenced results. After changes made to the league tables, schools are entering fewer younger pupils (third and fourth year pupils) for GCSEs. In addition, more 17-year-olds are taking GCSEs, because of a government policy that requires pupils to re-sit maths and English if they failed to gain at least a C grade.
As with A-Levels, this year's results come just before a major overhaul to the system. Although the qualification will still be called a GCSE, grades 1 to 9 will be awarded and the content, especially in maths, will become more demanding. The new exams will be phased in over the next 3 or 4 years.