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Nationwide fall in number of top GCSE grades
9:41am Thursday 23rd August 2012 in Education
The proportion of GCSEs awarded at least a C grade has fallen for the first time in the exam's history, official figures revealed today.
The results also show drops in the percentage of English, maths and science GCSE entries achieving passes at A*-C.
Today's national figures reveal that 69.4% of all GCSE exams were given at least a C grade - down 0.4 percentage points on last summer.
It is the first time the A*-C pass rate has fallen in the 24-year history of GCSEs. The exams were first taught in 1986, with the first exams taken in 1988.
There was also a fall in the proportion of GCSEs awarded the top grades, today's data shows.
Some 7.3% of entries were given an A*, down 0.5 percentage points on 2011, while 22.4% were handed at least an A grade, down 0.8 percentage points.
The statistics show a decrease in the proportion of GCSEs awarded at least a C grade in the core subjects of English, maths and science.
- In English, 63.9% of entries got at least a C, compared to 65.4% last summer, while 15% were awarded an A or A*, down from 16.8% in 2011;
- In English literature, 76.3% of exams were awarded A*-C, compared to 78.4% last year, and 23.2% got at least an A, against 25% in 2011;
- In maths, 58.4% of entries got at least a C grade, down from 58.8% in 2011, and 15.4% got A*-A, compared to 16.5% last summer;
- In science, 60.7% got A*-C grades, down from 62.9% and 9.8% got A*-A, down from 11.6% in 2011.
The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), which publishes today's national results, insisted that the drop in A*-C English results is partly down to more candidates sitting the exam earlier, during the winter exam season.
The number of entries for English GCSE, including English literature, has increased by 3.1%, JCQ said.
It added that there was a ''dramatic'' increase in entries for science GCSE - up 36.5% - and said that the fall in results at A*-C in this subject is partly due to a ''more demanding standard'' introduced this year, and a ''significant'' increase in entries by 15-year-olds.
Around 600,000 teenagers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are receiving their GCSE results today.
The results were published amid a brewing row over this year's GCSE English.
Teachers have raised concerns that English exams have been marked too harshly, with schools reporting an unprecedented number of fails among their pupils.
School staff have complained that exam boards substantially increased grade boundaries, leaving pupils with lower results than expected.
The gap between girls and boys stalled at the very top grades, with 18.9% of boys' entries achieving an A* and A, compared to 25.6% of girls' entries - a percentage gap of 6.7%, the same as there was in 2011.
At grades A* to C, girls are pulling away, with 65.4% of boys' entries attaining that level, compared to 73.3% of girls' entries. Last year, 66% of boys' entries achieved A* to C, compared to 73.5% of girls' entries.
The long decline in the take-up of modern foreign languages appeared to be slowing this year, with even a rise of 10% in the number of those sitting Spanish GCSE.
The number of entries for French fell by 0.5%, compared to a 13.2% fall last year, and the entries for German fell by 5.5% compared to a 13.2% fall in 2011.
There was a rise of 13.7% in the uptake of other modern languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Persian, Polish, Portuguese and Italian, which all saw significant increases.
Michael Turner, director of the Joint Council for Qualifications, said: ''These are a good set of results and students and teachers should be pleased with what they have achieved.
''It will be interesting to see if this year's rise in students taking Spanish and the rate of decline slowing in French and German is the beginning of a trend that will see more young people studying languages.''