GCSE grades see biggest ever fall and eight other key points from results day 2016

Pass rate falls at historic rate as more 17-year-olds resit GCSEs

Kaye Wiggins

News article image

The overall A* to C pass rate has seen its biggest fall in the history of GCSEs

The proportion of entries scoring an A* to C grade pass has fallen by 2.1 percentage points, from 69 per cent in 2015 to 66.9 per cent. This is the lowest pass rate since 2008, and the biggest drop in results since GCSEs were first taken in 1988.

Top grades are also down

This year, 20.5 per cent of entries gained an A or A* grade, down from 21.2 per cent last year. The figure is now at its lowest level since 2007.

Resits by pupils aged 17 and over have accentuated the decline

This year, for the first time, 16-to-19 institutions have to enter pupils for resits in English and maths GCSEs if they did not score a C grade in Year 11. The number of entries from students aged 17 and over has risen by 23.2 per cent, and the pass rate among this group is much lower than among all GCSE entries: just 35.9 per cent of their entries from school leavers scored a C or above which has contributed to the falling overall pass rate. 

But even among 16-year-olds, the pass rate has fallen significantly

Figures for Year 11 pupils show that the A* to C pass rate for this group has fallen by 1.3 per centage points.

For Year 11s, maths passes are up but English passes are down

Figures covering 16-year-olds show the A* to C pass rate in maths rose by 1.4 percentage points to 70.5 per cent. In English, it fell by 1.3 points to 71.3 per cent.

Progress 8 has had an impact

This year, for the first time, all schools will be judged according to their scores on the Progress 8 measure, which requires schools to enter pupils for traditional academic subjects. Schools have responded by entering more pupils for GCSEs in history, geography and science but results in these subjects have fallen. 

The decline in language learning seems unstoppable

Despite the government’s decision to include modern foreign languages in the EBacc performance measure, language entries are falling. There has been a 2.1 per cent rise in Spanish entries, but this has been offset by an 8.1 per cent drop in French entries and a 7 per cent drop in German entries.

Northern Ireland has extended its lead

In Northern Ireland, 79.1 per cent of entries scored an A* to C grade. The figure is significantly higher than in England and Wales, and has risen this year while the A* to C pass rate has fallen in England and stayed the same in Wales.

The gender gap is widening

Girls have long outperformed boys at GCSE, but this year they have extended their lead. Read more on the gender gap.

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Kaye Wiggins

Latest stories