27/08/2009

'A' Grades Dominate GCSEs

Twenty percent of students taking GCSEs this year scored an A or A*.

According to results published today, the figure relates to those taking five or more of the examinations in the national examination.

More than 670,000 pupils in England and Wales received their results with both the pass rate and the number of top grades edged up again.

Analysis also shows there was a return to traditional subjects with the number sitting maths, chemistry, biology and physics rising while languages declined for the fourth year in a row.

That is said to havve come about after the Government made languages non-compulsory for GCSE students.

Only 1.4% of students failed GCSEs this year while the numbers sitting English and English literature and scoring a C or better dropped by 0.2 percentage points, prompting concerns that schools are struggling to teach the subject, despite pressure from the government to prioritise it.

Once again, independent schools got far more of the top grades than comprehensives and their results improved fastest, widening the gap between the sectors.

Independent schools were, however, outperformed by students in grammar schools, where 55% of GCSEs scored an A or A*.

The gap between boys and girls also narrowed slightly at A*-C grades, but widened very marginally at A and A* grades.

Entries for physics went up by 21%, chemistry by 20% and biology by 18%. Maths, which has the highest number of entries overall, went up by 2.21%.

French fell by 6.6% and German by 4.2%. There was a 3.6% reduction in the total cohort size of 16-year-olds this year, accounting for some of the dip, but there will be concerns about the decline in the nation's languages skills.

There were small rises in the number entering for other languages, such as Arabic, Bengali and Russian.

Commenting, Mike Cresswell, Chief Executive of the exam board AQA, said for the first time since 1997 boys did better at all grades in maths.

He said it was probably down to the removal of coursework from the maths GCSE, as boys often thrive in exams compared with girls.

Overall the narrowing of the gap at grades A* to C, was a "pretty convincing reduction" since 1997, he said. "In terms of that critical grade C pass, the boys have been over that historic period catching up with the girls."

The rise in maths entries was down to increasing numbers of students taking it early at 15, suggesting that talented pupils are being entered earlier but also that schools are attempting to "bank" GCSE results early in order to focus on other subjects.

John Bangs, Head of Education at the National Union of Teachers, congratulated students' efforts, but added: "There has been a massive decrease in modern foreign languages, particularly French and German, which is shocking.

"It's a mistaken cross-party view that they are not essential, which is precisely the opposite of the needs and demands of England in a global economy."

(BMcC/GK)

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