Over 640,000 16-year-olds across England will today have picked up their GCSE results.
Here, we answer some of your questions.
Why are grades lower this year compared to 2022?
This year, GCSE grading is largely returning to normal in line with plans set out by Ofqual almost two years ago.
This is a crucial step forward in ensuring that qualifications maintain their value and students get the opportunities they deserve. This has meant, as expected, GCSE results are lower this year compared to 2022.
As the results show and as planned, overall grades are similar to those in 2019, before the pandemic started.
To recognise the disruption students have faced, there was grading protection in place. This means a pupil who would have achieved, for example, a grade 5 in GCSE history before the pandemic, is just as likely to get a grade 5 in GCSE history this year.
The grading protection applies nationally and is designed to help all students. At a national level, exams and formal assessments are fair because the rules are the same for everyone, with everyone being assessed against the same standard.
Why is grading in England different for students in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?
Education is a devolved power, meaning it's up to the devolved governments to decide on grading arrangements.
Qualifications in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are all different with different content, assessment approaches and grading.
Results also tend to look different in a normal year. For example, the proportion of entries at grade C and above in Wales was not above England at a grade 4, before the pandemic, while Northern Ireland was above England, before the pandemic.
We therefore always expected these results to look different across the three countries.
Schools, colleges and employers are aware of the intention to return to pre-pandemic grading standards and will take this into account as they support students with their new steps.
Students now have a range of high-quality post-16 options to choose from – including prestigious new T Levels, earning whilst learning on an apprenticeship, or taking A levels.
What are you doing to support children who are struggling the most?
The overall GCSE pass rate (grade 1 and above) fluctuates a bit even in normal years. For example, between 2016 and 2019, it varied between 98.5 percent and 98.7 percent, a 0.2 percentage point (ppt) change. This year, the pass rate is very close to pre-pandemic rates, and only 0.3 ppt lower than 2019.
Tutoring plays a huge role in supporting children who are struggling. Since the launch of the National Tutoring Programme and 16-19 Tuition Fund, in November 2020, more than £1.5 billion has been made available to support tutoring. Over 4 million tutoring courses have now been started, giving pupils the vital support they need to catch up.
What about disadvantaged students?
There are some fantastic schools in this country delivering great results for students in very disadvantaged circumstances. We know, for example, that the gap between independent schools and academies at grade 7 and above, has narrowed compared to 2019.
But there’s still work to be done. We want to make sure all pupils across the country have the same opportunities, which is why we’re investing £5 billion to help pupils recover from the disruption caused by the pandemic.
To support students who may have fallen behind due to disruption to education caused by the pandemic, we launched the National Tutoring Programme in 2020.
Schools also receive extra funding through the pupil premium. This is extra money for schools to help disadvantaged pupils of all abilities achieve their full potential. You can read more about the pupil premium on the Education Hub.
We’re also boosting funding for 55 local authority areas of England where education outcomes can be improved. These are called Education Investment Areas (EIAs) and the aim is to improve pupils’ standards in literacy and numeracy in these areas through support provided by schools where students tend to get higher grades. You can see the full list of areas on Gov.uk.
Opportunities for disadvantaged pupils to go to university have dramatically increased since 2010, with these pupils now 73 percent more likely to go to university. And this year’s results showed that 16,530 students who received free school meals gained a place at university.
What are we doing to close the attainment gap between students in the north and south?
We want to make sure that children from all over the country have the same opportunities to succeed and to attain to the highest levels. We are putting in extra investment in areas of the country that have some of the lowest outcomes, to help drive school improvement and raise standards.
We’re also supporting pupils with one or one or small group tutoring through the National Tutoring Programme. This has helped level the playing field for disadvantaged pupils in being able to access tutoring, which in the past would only have been available to their more affluent peers. Nearly four million tutoring courses have already started through the programme. This year almost half of all tutoring programme starts were pupils on free school meals.
We've also asked universities to work more closely with schools and colleges in their area to support pupils and tackle disadvantage earlier in their education.
Will more students who don’t get a grade 4 in GCSE English and maths in 2023 have to resit post 16 compared to previous years?
We know students who leave education with a good grasp of English and maths increase their chances of securing a job or going on to further study. This is why we require students who do not hold GCSE grade 4 or above in English and maths at age 16 to continue studying these subjects.
We don’t require students to continuously resit exams. Schools and colleges are encouraged to work with students on their English and maths needs until they are ready to sit an exam and decide together when it is the best time for them.
There has been consistent improvement in the achievement of English and maths between the ages 16 and 19 since 2014. For the population of 19-year-olds in 2022, 60 percent had level 2 English and maths at age 16, rising to 75 percent by age 19.
That year over 79,000 learners had achieved English and maths through their post-16 school or college, compared with around 37,500 in 2014.