Thursday 25 August 2016

GCSE Results 2016

GCSE results across England, Wales and Northern Ireland this year have suffered a significant fall. This is in marked contrast to last week's A-Level results, which showed a great deal of stability when compared with recent years. GCSE results peaked in 2011 after a long period of "grade inflation", and have been falling year on year ever since.

Of the five million results being released today, the proportion of entries being given A* to C grades has fallen from 69% to 66.9%, an unprecedented fall of 2.1%. The proportion of top A* and A grades was down overall by 0.9% to 13%. Awards of the very top A* grade have also fallen slightly, down from 6.6% to 6.5%.

One reason for the fall in the overall pass rate is that more pupils in England are re-taking GCSE English and maths, following measures by the government to attempt to ensure that all pupils reach a grade C in these subjects. As a result there were re-sits for tens of thousands who did not reach a C grade last year. Among over 16s, GCSE entries were up by 380,000, up roughly 25% on last year.

By subject, there were falls in the pass (A*-C) rate in maths (down 2.3%), English (down a worrying large 5.2%) and in other subjects.

But even without the re-sit figures, there was a fall in the results of 16 year olds, with the proportion getting A* to C falling by 1.3%. It is thought that a move to an alternative qualification, the iGCSE, for many able students, may account for some of the drop.

While the overall results were downwards, in Northern Ireland the proportion of passes increased slightly to 79.1% and top A* grades rose to 9.3%. In Wales, the level of A* to C passes remained at 66.6%, with A* grades rising slightly to 6.1%.

Girls continue to do better than boys at GCSE. The A*-C rate for girls was 71.3% compared with 62.4% for boys, a gap some would describe as worrying, or even unacceptable. The percentage of entries gaining A* grades for girls was 7.9% and 5.0% for boys.

Next year will start to see the phasing in of a radical change to the way that GCSEs are graded. The new GCSE exams will be graded from 1 to 9 (with 9 the highest), rather than the current A* to G.

Thursday 18 August 2016

A-Level Results Day 2016

Hundreds of thousands of teenagers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are receiving their A-level and AS results today. The A-level results show a stable pattern compared with last year.

Maths remains the nation's most popular choice of subject, as it was last year, and increasing numbers are also opting to take Further Maths at A-Level.

The proportion of top grades (A and A*) is 25.8%, down by 0.1% on last year. The overall pass (grades A*-C) rate of 98.1% remained the same. Northern Ireland remains the region with the biggest proportion of top grades, 29.5%.

Girls fared better than boys, once again, with 79.7% of girls getting a pass grade, compared with 75% for boys. Boys are getting more A* grades (8.5% compared with 7.7% for girls), although this gap between the very top-performing girls and boys has narrowed for the first time in five years. The overall level of A* grades (8.1%) has been falling now for 2 years.

According to Ucas, the universities' admissions service, 424,000 university places have been offered to hopeful students, which is up by 3% on the same time last year. But many places are reportedly still available through clearing, including at leading universities and for highly sought-after courses, such as medicine.

The increase in the number of places still available is mainly due to two factors: a roughly 2% fall in the number of school-leavers and the removal of the cap on the number of places universities in England can offer.

AS levels are being "decoupled" from being part of A-levels - and this year's figures show a 13.7% drop in entries for the AS course. Previously the AS has carried with it the option of continuing on to a full A-Level, but this will now cease to be the case: if you register for an AS, this is the qualification you will get.

Teachers and head teachers' leaders have warned that, although the overall results appear to show stability when compared with recent years, individual schools and pupils are facing some unpredictable outcomes.

The current cap of £9000 for university tuition fees is being removed, so students starting at England's universities in the autumn could face higher fees. Exeter University has been the first to announce that it will increase fees to £9,250 for all current and new students.

With the prospect of increasing fees, school leavers may opt not to go to university at all. Financial services firm PwC says that it has had a 20% increase over two years for new recruits of those leaving school with A-levels.