Commenting on the 2023 GCSE and VTQ results published today, Martin Hodge, Community’s Head of Education Policy said:
Congratulations to all those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland celebrating achievements in the 2023 GCSE and Vocational results. Community also sends its warmest congratulations to all those parents, teachers, school leaders and support staff who have played such a significant role throughout.
Disruption & Anxiety
We are aware that the news has been reporting on the decision by Government to continue with its planned return to pre-pandemic grading. This policy means grades are similar to 2019 but around 5 percentage points lower at grade 4/C over 2022 and means that this year’s awards should not be compared to those received during the pandemic.
Community has raised concerns about this grade restoration especially in light of the more sensitive approaches taken in Wales and Scotland. These students were the first cohort to have completed a full GCSE course but did so following a significantly disrupted KS3 which has caused high levels of anxiety.
According to Ofqual, 15% of students report themselves to be highly ‘test anxious’, with female students more likely to be affected. For these students, their levels of stress and anxiety are high enough that their wellbeing and exam performance can be negatively affected. Over 600,000 students sit GCSEs each year, which means that there may be as many as 100,000 students experiencing test anxiety each year and this return to a 2019 grade distribution could mean the difference between success and failure is even more acute.
Girls continue to outperform boys at all levels, achieving 7.7pp better at grades 4/C and above, although the gap is closing slowly. And once again there are significant regional differences with London outperforming the rest of England. At grade 7/A students in London performed 4pp better than in any other English region and at grade 4/C students in London achieved 9pp higher than comparable students in the West Midlands.
Entries & Outcomes
Entries have increased by 3.4% this year (more than the population growth of 2.1%) such that this year over 6 million GCSE and Level 1 and 2 VTQ results have been issued today.
Entries for Welsh, both as a first and second language, remain stable compared to last year but up 10% compared to 2019. There has been significant growth in the number of students taking Business Studies (up 14.8% to 123,166), Computing (up 11.6% to 90,558) and Spanish (up 11.3% to 125,651), though French remains the most popular modern foreign language with 130,901 entries.
Compared to 2019, results this year are up slightly:
- 7/A up 1.2pp from 20.8% to 22.0%
- 4/C up 0.9pp from 67.3% to 68.2%
- 1/G down 0.3pp from 98.3% to 98.0%.
This means that 142,000 more students have achieved top grades compared to 2019, but in comparison to last year’s grades, results have fallen an average of 4.5pp across grades 4/C and above potentially affecting over 295,000 students.
Results in Maths and English show marginal increases over 2019 with English results at 4/C up 2.7pp and up 1.5pp in Maths. Science results are also up 1.2pp at 4/C for those taking the Double Award and remain stable in Physics, Chemistry and Biology.
Sadly, we continue to see the same pattern in GCSE Arts subjects as was seen in last week’s A Level results. Entries in Art and Design are down 3.6%, down in Drama 7.3%, and have plummeted 12.5% in Music.
Academic progress will never be a straightforward thing to measure, which is why a straightforward exam will fail to capture the full range of knowledge of every student. Maybe now is the time to consider a huge change. What is the purpose, when education or training must continue until 18, of subject exams at 16? What does that tell us as educators and what is the value for the learner? Is it still appropriate in the twenty-first century to be using nineteenth century assessment methods? Or is now the time to move on to something new, something which reflects the wholeness of education rather than focusing on a narrow set of academic measures?
Whatever the future holds, whatever the next steps, whatever the outcome received, today is a day to rejoice and celebrate the hard work and dedication of the staff, students and those who surround them.
Congratulations from Community!