GCSE results show rise in A-Cs in Maths & English for 16 Year Olds

Henry Stewart's picture
The news coverage of GCSE results has focused on falling GCSE results. The main explanation given has been more students taking GCSEs early, effectively putting the blame on schools. This interpretation comes from the JCQ press release

It is clear the % of GCSE entries being graded C or higher has fallen. However this is a fairly uninteresting statistic. What we surely want to know is what proportion of students, and especially of students completing Year 11, achieved A-C. Both students and schools will be judged not on their overall entries but on the best result in each GCSE subject.

The JCQ does publish data for 16 year olds, removing the effect of students taking GCSEs a year early, and this gives a different picture:

The proportion of 16 year old entries getting A-C has risen in Maths and English (though only very slightly in Maths)

% of GCSE Entries at A*-C (16 year olds)



However the proportion of entries achieving A & A* has fallen in both English and Maths:

% of GCSE Entries at A*-A (16 year olds)


Data Source: GCSE Full Course Results 2013 by age group

Oddly the JCQ press release states "The overall decline in top grades in English can, therefore, be explained by younger students not performing as strongly as 16 year olds." If "top grades" refer to A and A*, then this statement appears to be false.

The data is for June 2013 GCSEs only and so does not include multiple entries. (It also does not include any students who took the GCSE early and chose not to retake it, probably because they were happy with their grade.)

Big Fall in Science Grades & in Science Entries

Where there has been a very significant fall in results is in Science, with the BBC reporting a massive fall in entries achieving A*-C from 60.7% to 53.1%.

Its not clear where that figure comes from. The JCQ data shows smaller falls for Biology, Chemistry and Physics (which tend to be taken by the more academic students) but a massive fall in those achieving A-C in Science from 64.7% to 47.9%.

Oddly there was also a massive fall in the numbers taking Science GCSE, from 314,000 in 2012 to 126,000 in 2013, a fall of 60%. This was not matched by rises in the single subject Science GCSEs and seems rather alarming. Does anybody know the reason for this fall? Surely it can't all be explained by students taking Science GCSE early?

Addition: Interestingly there was a huge rise in 15 year olds taking Science GCSE, from 225,000 to 316,000. And their results were only very slightly down on 2012, with 55.1% achieving A*-C (compared to 55.3% last year). As this is higher than the % of 16 year olds achieving A*-C, does that mean early entry in Science is a good strategy?



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