Record GCSE grades

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A record number of GCSE examinations were awarded ‘A’ grades in this year's exams, with more than one in five entries in England, Wales and Northern Ireland being awarded an A or A*.

The 2009 GCSE results show the overall A*-C rate has increased by 1.4 percentage points to 67.1 per cent. The overall A* to G rate has also increased from 98.4 per cent in 2008 to 98.6 per cent and the A* to A rate has gone up from 20.7 per cent in 2008 to 21.6 per cent.

Boys A*-C results in maths has risen 1.8 percentage points to 57.6 per cent. Boys are also continuing to close the gap overall, their A*-C results improving 1.5 percentage points compared to 1.2 percentage points for girls.

There has been a significant increase in entries for the three individual sciences, with chemistry up 20.3 per cent, biology up 18 per cent and physics up 21 per cent.

Results for modern foreign languages (MFL) are also up, with the A*-C rate up 1.8 percentage points to 70.1 per cent in French, and up 2 percentage points in German to 74 per cent.

Highlights from the 2009 results include:

  • overall A*-C rate now stands at 67.1 per cent, an increase of 1.4 percentage points on 2008 and 12.5 percentage points on 1997
  • entries for all individual sciences are up - chemistry is up 20.3 per cent, biology 18 per cent and physics is up by 21 per cent
  • Overall A*-C rate in maths is up from 56.3 to 57.2 per cent, with boys A*-C rate rising by 1.8 percentage points to 57.6 per cent
  • English Literature saw a 3.2 percentage point increase in A*-C grades
  • English saw a slight fall in A*-C grades of 0.2 percentage points to 62.7 per cent

Schools Minister Vernon Coaker welcomed the news that more young people are achieving A*-C grades at GCSE.

Commenting on the results, he said:  “I’m really pleased to see that this year’s GCSE results show sustained progress in standards at GCSE. Good results are the product of students’ hard work and excellent teaching in the system. I congratulate young people for their achievements today, and we should all take pride in their success.

“The improvements in maths grades are particularly welcome and reflect our sustained focus on getting the basics right. However, it is disappointing to see a slight fall in the English A*-C rate. We are not complacent and are targeting our efforts on ensuring that every child performs to their full potential. From next year we are introducing new GCSEs in English, Mathematics and ICT to strengthen their functional skills content.

“All school leavers this summer should consider staying on in learning so they have extra skills to get a job once we are through the recession – whether that’s at school, college, in training or an apprenticeship. Our September Guarantee means there will be a guaranteed place in education or training for everybody who wants to stay on, and we’ve expanded the places available in apprenticeships and training, so more young people can choose a path that suits their abilities and interests.”

In an interview, Mr Coaker told GMTV he did not accept that students would be better served by taking international GCSEs, which some experts have claimed are a better preparation for A-levels.

He said: "Some people say that. I don't accept that. I think the GCSEs that the vast majority of young people do in this country are an excellent preparation for A-level or it's an excellent preparation for any of the other courses that people choose to follow.

"GCSEs are accepted by examination boards, accredited by them, they're looked after by Ofsted, by the office for qualifications. All of those people ensuring that standards are maintained and I think today is a day for celebrating those results."

Commenting on the results, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "I thoroughly condemn attempts, whether from parts of the press or political parties, that seek to undermine for their own purposes the credibility of GCSEs. Young people have done their best and the improvements we have seen in recent years are entirely due to their efforts and the hard work of teachers.

"There are of course major issues that still need to be tackled including the ongoing effects of the mistaken decision by Government, supported by the Conservative Party, to make Modern Foreign Languages optional. The reduction in take-up of Modern Foreign Languages, particularly in French and German, is of fundamental concern.

"Nevertheless the overall picture is one of success and that is precisely what everyone should celebrate alongside pupils, parents and teachers."

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, also congratulated the students, but added that they were being “sold short” by the exams system, and called on ministers to reform how pupils are assessed.

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