Why have GCSE pass rates fallen across the country?

‘The national GCSE pass rate has tumbled by the biggest margin since the exam replaced O-levels almost 30 years ago, driven downwards by conflicting government policies and a jump in older students forced to resit core topics.

In what exam boards chiefs described as “a complex national picture”, the headline pass rate fell by 2.1 percentage points to 66.9% attaining C grade or above, and falls in the proportion winning the highest A* and A grades.

In England alone, the proportion getting good grades dipped to 66.6%, led by a 2.4 percentage point drop in the pass rate for boys. Unexpected shifts in the numbers and abilities of candidates caused a dip in results for several major subjects including English and sciences.

But it was the effect of the government’s new policy – imposing retakes on pupils in England who failed to get at least a C in English or maths – that provoked most controversy, with leading educationalists arguing that the results showed that repeated retakes by 17- and 18-year-olds were ineffective.

The number of those aged 17 and over taking GCSEs in maths has more than doubled in just two years, from 80,000 to more than 160,000, but their success rate has stuttered, with fewer than 30% gaining the coveted C grade.

Mark Dawe, former head of an exam board and chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: “This is evidence enough that hitting students over the head with the same form of learning and assessment is not the way forward.”’ - Guardian

‘Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, echoed Mr Dawe’s remarks.

He said: “The government must consider creating a qualification that is more fit-for-purpose in developing English and maths skills that complement technical and professional studies, motivate students and meet the needs of employers, a requirement that was recognised in the recent report by Lord Sainsbury [Technical education reform: the case for change].”

Today’s figures show that, while the number of learners aged 17+ taking GCSE English and maths has risen significantly, the proportions achieving at least a grade C in those subject has slumped.’ – FE Week


Go Back