PUPILS in England achieved a record number of top GCSE grades this year, but the rise was lower than for A levels (News, 10 August), and fears of massive grade inflation were not realised.
Thirty per cent of entries gained grades 7-9 (formerly A and A*): a rise of 2.5 per cent on 2020, and eight per cent on 2019. Exams were replaced by teacher assessments for a second year, because of the disruption to schooling caused by the pandemic.
Selective schools did best: 68.4 per cent of pupils achieved top 7-9 grades, followed by independent schools at 61.2 per cent. The gap between these and non-selective schools was marked: academies came in at 28.1 per cent and secondary comprehensives at 26.1 per cent.
There was only the smallest percentage change in the proportion of pupils gaining a grade 4 or higher: 76.9 per cent this year compared with 75.9 per cent in 2020 and 67.1 per cent in 2019.
Girls outperformed boys in maths: 26.4 per cent as against 25.5 per cent achieved a 7 or higher, and girls also did better in English. The overall results further exposed the attainment gap between London and the south-east, and the north-east in particular, where schools suffered the greatest disruption.
Religious Studies (RS) had a fall of 2.4 per cent in entries (221,419) to the full course in England. Entries peaked in 2016. The number doing the full course, however, is still 29.7 per cent higher than in 2010.
The figures “sounded an alarm bell”, Trevor Cooling, who chairs the Religious Education Council of England and Wales, said. Performance measures had decimated short-course entries: now, one third of secondary schools were struggling to provide RS at Key Stage 4. He repeated his call for a national plan from the Government for the proper resourcing of RS.