Congratulations and well done, to all those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland celebrating achievements in the 2022 GCSEs and BTECs. Community Union also sends its warmest congratulations to all those parents, teachers, school leaders and support staff who have played such a significant role throughout.
This year saw the return to exams-based assessment for the first time since 2019. But, with learning being so disrupted over the past three years, teachers and students have had to work incredibly hard to overcome any disadvantage this may have caused.
Even so, pupils have been warned to prepare for disappointment as Ofqual, the exam watchdog, was asked to rein in the number of top grades awarded, with 2022 the first in a “two-step return” to 2019 standards. Analysis by Professor Alan Smithers, of the University of Buckingham’s Centre for Education and Employment Research indicates that the number of results marked Grade 7 or above, the equivalent of A or A*, is set to fall by 230,000 compared to last year meaning 75,000 fewer pupils will receive top grades.
The excessive curriculum content was adjusted in some courses, with additional advance information about which areas to revise given in others. However, exam boards were criticised for mistakes on some papers, which saw pupils tested on topics they had been told wouldn’t be included this year.
The Guardian reported that teachers in England have observed high levels of anxiety among pupils in the run-up to GCSEs and A-levels, with reports of panic attacks, angry outbursts, self-harm and disengagement among students. And research conducted by the Sutton Trust revealed that students are also worried that the mitigations to exams won’t be enough to secure them the grades they need to progress.
Glyn Potts, the headteacher of Newman Roman Catholic college in Oldham said, “We have got some students who are desperate to do very, very well. They fear they are not going to get the grades they should be getting because of the disruption, and because the government needs to sort out the [grade] inflation over the last two years.
“We’ve also seen a huge number of doctor or CAMHS [child mental health services]-related feedback to parents … requesting children should have a room of their own for the exams.” Requests have more than doubled to 23 GCSE candidates this summer, he said.
The stress and anxiety experienced by students this year is particularly pronounced and sadly continues an increasing trend amongst students and those in exam years in particular.
Entries & Outcomes
This year there have been around 5.7million GCSE results which is slightly less than in 2021, probably due to fewer students taking resits in English and Maths.
The policy decision to ensure that grades are more generous than 2019 means that overall grades are up since exams were last taken rising 5.5pp at grade 7/A, 5.9pp at grade 4/C and 0.1pp at grade 1/G meaning 98.4% of students passed their exams.
As with GCSEs, whilst this year’s grade boundaries for BTECs are more generous, both for the practical learning units taken in school or college, and the final exams, results are expected to be lower than 2022. And, according to news from Pearson, the exam board that runs BTEC, up to 7000 student results could be late due to problems in validating the work. Teachers have been urged to check their emails in an effort to quickly resolve the issue, meaning staff again working through their holidays.
Results in Maths and English show increases over 2019. English Language saw increases of 6.4pp at 7/A, and 8.2pp at 4/C with the overall pass rate remaining the same. Overall outcomes for English Literature increased at grade 7/A by 3.6pp and at grade 4/C by 3.8pp. Mathematics saw a similar patter with increases of 4pp at 7/A and 5.4pp at 4/C.
Growth in science continues, with entries in all science up. Dual Award science saw an increase in entries of 0.9% with results at 7/A up by 2.9pp and 4/C increasing by 5.0pp over 2019.
In languages, French remains most popular despite a 1.9% decrease in entries. Spanish remains second most popular with German the third most popular MFL, though they too have seen a drop in entries. Other modern foreign languages have seen another increase in popularity with Chinese and Turkish seeing particular rises in entries.
Female students outperform male students at all key grades, but the gender gap is narrowing and in certain subjects, for example Maths and Physic, males outperform females at the highest grades.
It is vitally important that we do not understate the success of all candidates. Whilst many will be celebrating, there will be some who’s results were not what they had hoped – however, the fact that they sat their exams and received results is a significant achievement after the disruption of COVID-19.
There will be time enough to evaluate the impact but today is a day to rejoice and celebrate the hard work and dedication of the students and those who surround them.
Congratulations from Community Union!