The four most popular subjects remain as mathematics, English, science and English literature. However, according to exam boards, the number of students entering the English examination early, in the winter, has decreased, leading to more lower-ability candidates taking the exam in the summer.
The proportion of English candidates achieving what is considered a good pass has dropped by 1.5%, with 63.9% achieving an A*-C in the subject, compared to 65.4% in 2011. In English literature, 76.3% of students gained an A*-C compared with 78.4% last year. These recent results follow a number of changes to the GCSE system and the English exam, as part of efforts by Ofqual, the exams regulator, to address grade inflation.
The Guardian reports that “schools in Leeds and across London, Essex, Kent, Hampshire, Suffolk, Bedfordshire and Somerset have all reported problems with the English GCSE”, with dozens of schools concerned that their students have been marked down by an entire grade in English compared with the predicted grades given by their teachers.
As schools must ensure at least four-in-10 pupils gain five good passes (A*-C), these results will place increased pressure on state schools in England which have been threatened with closure or take-over if they fail to hit their GCSE targets.
The percentage of maths students gaining at least a C grade has also slightly decreased, with 58.4% gaining a C grade or above, compared with 58.8% in 2011.
The number of girls achieving A* grades remains higher than their male peers, with 8.7% of female entrants achieving the top grade compared with 6% of boys. Girls also outperformed boys in the A* to C category.