GCSE results for the second set of summer exams since the pandemic began are out this morning – here’s your usual handy Schools Week round up of the key trends.
All findings below, unless stated otherwise, are based on the figures for 16-year-olds in England only, which is why they may differ to what you read elsewhere.
1. Grade 5+ pass rate is 54.4%
We’ve always highlighted the grade 5 and above pass rate – considered a “strong” pass – because it’s how schools are judged in league tables. Grade 4 is a “standard” pass.
The grade 5-pass rate has dropped from 60.3 per cent last year to 54.4 per cent this year. However this is still slightly above the 53.5 per cent in 2019.
The number of grades that are 4 and above is 70.3 per cent which is down from 75.3 per cent in 2022. Again, it is marginally above the 69.9 per cent pass rate in 2019.
2. Top grades drop, but still slightly above 2019
The proportion of top grades (7 to 9, which is equivalent to A*/A in old money) have fallen 17 per cent this year.
This summer, 22.4 per cent of grades were 7 and above, compared to 27 per cent last year. It’s now closer to the pre-pandemic 21.8 per cent.
The proportion of the top grade 9s has seen a bigger drop, of 26 per cent.
This has fallen from 6.8 per cent last year to 5 per cent this year, much closer to the 4.7 per cent seen in 2019.
The number of straight As has nearly halved since last year, falling from 2,193 to 1,160. It’s still above the 837 in 2019.
3. Sharper fall in English top grades than maths
The proportion of top grades in English has fallen 20 per cent since last year. Whereas in maths, this only fell 12.1 per cent.
In English, 18.8 per cent of grades were 7 or above, a fall from 23.5 per cent in 2022. This remains above the 17.4 per cent in 2019.
In maths, 21.1 per cent of grades were 7 or above, a drop from 24 per cent last year. Again, this is slightly above the 20.4 per cent in 2019.
The grade 5-pass rate for English was 55.1 per cent, compared to 61.1 per cent in 2022 and 53.4 in 2019.
The grade 5 pass rate for maths was 52.4 per cent, down from 56.6 per cent in 2022 but up on 50.1 per cent in 2019.
4. No change in the most popular subjects
Double award science, maths, English, English literature and history again have the highest entries across the UK for all ages.
Business studies saw the highest percentage growth in entries this year, up 14.8 per cent from 107,283 last year to 123,166. Numbers have been growing since 2018.
Spanish saw the second highest percentage growth, at 11.3 per cent. Entries grew from 112,845 in 2022 to 125,651 this year.
Art and design subjects saw the biggest drop in entries. There were 198,302 entries this year, versus 205,657 last year – a fall of 3.6 per cent – following a continued decline.
Some of the smallest subjects (with under 100,000 entries), saw large percentage increases. Construction (23 per cent), statistics (20.4 per cent) and computing (11.6 per cent) saw the biggest changes.
Read more here on which subjects saw the biggest drops in grades.
5. Girls still outperform boys
Girls continue to outperform boys when it comes to top grades, though the gap is smaller this year than in 2022.
This year, 25.3 per cent of grades issued to 16-year-old girls in England were 7s and above, compared to 19.5 per cent of those issued to boys, a gap of 5.8 percentage points.
Last year, the figures were 30.7 per cent for girls and 23.3 per cent for boys, a gap of 7.4 percentage points.
6. North-south gap widens
The gap in top grades between the north east and London has widened from 9.3 percentage points in 2019 to 10.8 percentage points this year. It has been widening gradually during the pandemic.
The proportion of top grades in the north east was 17.6 per cent this year compared to 16.4 per cent pre-pandemic. This compares to 28.4 per cent this year in London, up from 25.7 per cent in 2019.
The north east has also seen the largest percentage drop in top grades since 2022 – a fall of 21.4 per cent. The smallest drop was in London, 12.9 per cent.
It follows a similar regional trend at A-level last week.
However, it’s worth noting that the north east had the second highest percentage rise since 2019 – 7.3 per cent – followed by London at 10.5 per cent.
This compares to the north west, where top grades have fallen back to 2019 standards.
7. Private school grades fall below pre-pandemic
Private schools were the only type of centre whose proportion of top grades actually fell below 2019 levels.
The proportion of top grades at private schools fell by 1.3 per cent, from 47.2 per cent in 2019, to 46.6 per cent this year.
Top grades at free schools fell back to pre-Covid levels, with 19.6 per cent of entries at grade 7 or above in both 2019 and 2023.
The proportion of top grades remains higher than 2019 in secondary moderns (3.7 per cent), comprehensives (2.7 per cent), academies (1.9 per cent ) and grammar schools (1.4 per cent).