Headline GCSE results registered their biggest improvement for 18 years yesterday, with nearly two thirds of entries given a C or better.
The proportion of pupils achieving the four top grades rose by 2.4 percentage points to 65.7 per cent, the 20th rise in a row and the largest since 1990.
And for the first time, more than one in five entries awarded was an A* or A. This figure also rose sharply, from 19.5 to 20.7 per cent.
There is likely to be good news in the winter, too, when the league tables are published because results in both maths and English, which must now be included in the ranking, also rose. Some 56.3 per cent of maths entries were awarded grade C or better, up from 55.2 per cent in 2007. In English, the corresponding figure was 62.9 per cent, compared with 62.2 last year.
Schools which last year failed to reach the benchmark of 30 per cent of pupils achieving five or more top grades (including English and maths) have been given three years to reach the target or close.
However, French and German teachers will be concerned about further drops in their subjects' popularity. French candidate numbers fell by nearly 15,000 (7 per cent) and are now nearly 150,000 lower than they were in 2001.
German numbers fell by 5 per cent and are now only just over half what they were in 1999. By contrast, Spanish entries rose by 5 per cent and the subject could overtake German in popularity in the next two years.
The demise of the old double science course in 2006 - and its replacement by separate science and additional science papers - has prompted tens of thousands more pupils to opt for specialist physics, chemistry or biology GCSEs. Numbers for each of these grew by around 30 per cent.
On average across all subjects, boys narrowed the gap on girls as judged by the number of A* and A grades awarded, but the performance difference was almost unchanged at A*-C.
There was a 3 per cent fall in the number of GCSE entries overall, which the exam boards say may be explained partly by Year 11 pupils taking English and maths in January this year.