Hello, and welcome to the Tes live blog for GCSE results day 2019.
It’s an odd feeling, being a headteacher or an exams officer the day before GCSE results day. A feeling, one suspects, not unlike the mythological Fates, who know how the lives of all mortals will pan out, long before the people actually living those lives do.
(Yes: with one slightly overblown analogy, I have compared headteachers to gods. I’ll stop now.)
It would be lovely if results day had a divine morality about it: if those who worked hard were duly rewarded, and those who didn’t bother learnt a timely (and ultimately still reversible) lesson about applying themselves.
But it doesn’t. Of course, there are always the pleasant surprises: the pupils who worked incredibly hard, and managed to exceed their teachers’ expectations of them. But there will also be those who worked incredibly hard, and still missed out on the grades they needed.
Life isn’t always fair, but 16 is still a horribly young age at which to learn this.
And so, the day before GCSE results day, teachers should sit back, drink a stiff gin, and prepare for a day of celebrating and cheering, but also of consoling and comforting. And possibly be thankful that, like the Fates, you will be looking down on the events of tomorrow from a great and distant height.
Tes will be here – and with the pupils opening their results envelopes – all day tomorrow.
We also want to hear your stories throughout the day: your personal experiences, as well as your thoughts on the national picture.
You can email me on: email@example.com, or send me a tweet @adibloom_tes.
That's all, folks
And, with that, we conclude our live-blog coverage for another exams season.
For those of you who are still here: thank you for sticking with me. For those who aren't: you'll never know what you missed (though I suspect I may well have peaked with the picture of the baby wombat, anyway).
To those teachers who worked so hard to get their pupils to this point: you are all heroes. You deserve a holiday. And, rather handily, you still have a week and a half of one left.
So: go! Frolic in what remains of the summer sunshine. Down all the rosé you can find, and spend the following day watching Netflix in your pyjamas. You deserve it.
Today in graphics: part six
Today in graphics: part five
Today in graphics: part four
Today in graphics: part three
Today in graphics: part two
Today in graphics: part one
Second time's a charm
But I don't want you to think that we've now reached the watching-videos-and-going-on-extended-nature-walks part of GCSE results day.
No, no, no. Results day is not over yet, and there is still important learning to be done.
So we bring you the news that around 60,000 GCSE resit students improved their grade in English or maths this summer to achieve a 4 or better.
Nearly 36,000 post-16 resit students improved their GCSE English grade to a 4 or above, with almost 25,000 achieving this improvement in maths.
Read the full story here.
Start limbering up your punning muscles
There is no occasion that cannot – and should not – be celebrated with a string of good puns. No, there is not.
So that you know what you're up against, here are some of the most groan-worthy suggestions so far:
Superman 2, but we asked for a remark, and it came back as a 3 #changeafilmtobeaboutGCSEs— Stuart Hayward (@stuartteachphys) August 22, 2019
A* is reborn #changeafilmtobeaboutGCSEs— Brian Christian (@BC_Riverside) August 22, 2019
Graders of the lost Arc— Mr Shaun Henderson (@Thereal_MrH) August 22, 2019
EBacc to the future
Like a quilted dressing-gown for the heart
Over on Twitter, people are submitting a range of GCSE stories – their own and their pupils' – under the #MakingTheGrade hashtag.
This one is particularly lovely: like a soft puppy, curled sleepily around your heart and rubbing its nose on your soul:
One jumping pupil for every important point
As dedicated readers (and are there any other kind?) of this blog will have noticed, there is a lot of GCSE-related news out there. Don't believe me? Scroll down a bit.
Still don't believe me? Head over to our GCSE news hub. (And keep heading over there again and again, because it's being updated constantly with breaking stories.)
Hopefully now you'll be convinced. And possibly just a little bit overwhelmed, because – and this, remember, was my original point – there is a lot of GCSE-related news out there.
But fear not! Because not only does Tes have all the news, but we have also handily digested it for you into four easy-to-grasp points:
There's been a slight increase in top grades and standard passes.
Boys no longer have the advantage, when it comes to the top grades.
Entries for language subjects have increased.
Girls have increased their share of the top grades in maths and physics.
See? It's all remarkably easy to take in when you put it like that, isn't it?
Read the full (but still eminently digestible) story here.
Suffering from a chilly heart? Look no further
Over on Twitter, Tes is looking for personal GCSE stories of adversity overcome, disaster thwarted and triumph against the odds. We'll be collating them under the hashtag #makingthegrade.
And, really, if your bus doesn't come, or your computer keeps crashing, or you simply realised that there's only a week and bit left of the summer holidays, then you need this hashtag.
In case further proof were needed, I offer you this:
Are we failing the 16 year olds who feel like failures?
“I am a better person than these grades show.”
“This grade makes it look as though I can’t read or write.”
“If you fail, you are nothing.”
“Do a third of us always have to fail so that two-thirds pass?”
These are the comments that one headteacher heard from her GCSE pupils. Now she asks: are we failing the pupils who fail?
Read her full article here.
GCSE results day: the nature documentary
GCSE results day, as though narrated by David Attenborough? This is so wonderful that you really just need to click through and read it for yourself.
But, in case you don't want to take my word for it, here's a taster:
Welcome to the most tense habitat on Earth: the school hall on results day.
It’s here that the fledgling humans will have to contend with the biggest moment of their academic lives so far: receiving their grades.
For the past 11 years, the older members of the tribe have been preparing the younger humans. In the early summer months, these younger ones gathered together in huge swarms to silently complete the ancient rituals of GCSE and BTEC exams.
Today, the school-hall environment may seem hostile, but, for many, this is the place of surprising happiness and reward.
Access the full nature documentary here.
How many very, very, very, very clever 16 year olds are there in the country?
Eight hundred and thirty seven.
Yes, there are 837 very, very, very, very clever 16 year olds in the country.
And, in case "very, very, very, very clever" (or clever to the power of four, for the mathematically inclined among you) is not an accurate enough description for you, I can be more specific.
There are 837 GCSE candidates who achieved a run of straight grade 9s in at least seven GCSEs this year.
This year's pupils are thus very, very, very, very cleverer than last year's: last year, 732 candidates achieved a similar string of grade 9s.
Read the full story here.
When the silver lining doesn't always hide the cloud
I’ve already come out as a former swotty schoolkid (which will surprise absolutely no one who’s ever met me). So it follows that I really cared about my GCSE results, Really, really cared.
It didn’t matter how many people told me that GCSEs didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, or that your A-level grades mattered far more. No. My GCSE grades mattered to me. It was a point not just of personal pride, but of personal success or failure. My entire sense of myself – as swotty schoolkid, as person who did well in exams – was bound up in those grades.
The point here is that people say well-intentioned things on GCSE results day, and those things may well be true. But sometimes they’re also not at all what the person in question wants, needs or is able to hear.
In a heartfelt article, 17-year-old Olamide Taiwo writes about the devastation she felt when she achieved a lower-than-expected grade 6 in her maths GCSE. While recognising that this was a decent grade, she also says that this single grade overshadowed all her other results-day achievements.
And what she absolutely did not want to hear – even though she knew it was true – was that, actually, a 6 was a pretty good grade, in the grand scheme of things.
Read Olamide’s full article here.
Why the computing lab represents society in reverse
Ooh! This is interesting. You know how, as a rule in society, when women dominate any particular field, men nonetheless dominate in the higher-paid, higher-prestige positions? See under: the teaching profession, compared with headteachers and academy chiefs.
Well, look at this. The exact opposite is true in computing GCSE. Boys make up 78.6 per cent of entries. But 24.9 per cent of girls achieved grades A/7 or above, compared with 20.8 per cent of boys.
Girls also outperform boys at grades C/4 and above, with 66.2 per cent of girls achieving C/4 grades or higher in the subject compared with 61.7 per cent of boys.
It's not quite equality – after all, computing GCSE is still dominated by boys – but it's certainly noteworthy.
Read the full story here.
Speak-o the English-o?
When the historian of the future looks back on all the fault lines along which British society in 2019 divided itself, one of them must surely be: people who assume that visiting a foreign country means waving your hands around, speaking loudly, and occasionally adding an 'o' to the ends of words, versus those who actually try and learn the language.
And, of course, this same divide might equally be described as: people who were around when Fawlty Towers was screened for the first time, versus people who were born in the 21st century.
So: today's GCSE results reveal that modern foreign languages entries are up 3 per cent.
French entries are up by 3.2 per cent to 130,931 while Spanish entries are up by 7.5 per cent, passing the 100,000 mark for the first time ever.
All the same, German entries are down 3.9 per cent to 42,791. So tomorrow's Basil Fawlties might still have something to wave their hands about.
Read the full story here.
Battle of the sexes
The gender gap is, of course, an artificially created phenomenon, perpetuated by an inherently sexist (but increasingly self-aware) society.
But, sociology lecture aside, this year's results have thrown up some interesting stats:
- Boys continued to narrow the gap at the pass rate
- 62.9 per cent of boys achieved a C/4 grade or above, up from 62.3 per cent last year.
- 71.7 per cent of girls achieved a standard pass, up from 71.4 per cent last year.
- The gender gap at C/4 has narrowed from 9.1 percentage points in 2018 to 8.8 this year.
- At the top grades of A/7, the gender gap has stabilised at 6.5 percentage points – the same as last year – after narrowing from 7.3 percentage points in 2017.
- Nearly one in four of girls' entries – 24.1 per cent – gained a grade A/7 or above, compared with 17.6 per cent of boys' entries.
Read the full story here.
AND THEY'RE HERE
For everyone who isn't anticipating a face-off with a brown envelope later today, this is the moment you've been waiting for.
The key points:
- Today’s GCSE results reveal another increase in top and pass grades across the UK.
- The percentage of entries graded A/7 or above rose to 20.8 per cent, up 0.3 percentage points.
- The proportion of C/4 grades and above – considered as the "standard pass" – also increased slightly, to 67.3 per cent of entries, up from 66.9 per cent last year.
Read the full breakdown of exam stats here.
What FE is all about...
This just in from our reporter on the West Yorkshire frontline. Uplifting, or what?
Gary Holmes, 31, brought his two kids to pick up #GCSEresults maths for himself and his wife Corinne. Both passed and Corinne can now go on to become a teacher #gcseresultsday2019 @leedscitycoll pic.twitter.com/1m7AqbibVq— Tes Further Ed (@tesfenews) August 22, 2019
We all know, of course, that things were officially Better In The Old Days. Forget the absence of equalities legislation, or the impenetrable clouds of smoke in pretty much every public place (“What should I wear to go out to the pub? Nothing with complicated cleaning instructions”). Forget the lack of TV on-demand, or supermarket sushi, or anything other than pizza available for home delivery. Things were better in the old days. They just were.
Except sometimes – just sometimes – they actually were. (At least according to teachers.)
Take, for example, GCSEs. The majority of teachers say that the new, reformed GCSEs do not reflect their pupils’ abilities as well as the previous incarnation of the qualification.
A poll conducted by the NEU teachers’ union found that 54 per cent of GCSE teachers felt that the revised qualifications were less-accurate measures of ability than the legacy qualification.
Read the full story here.
Tes, of course, has reporters in every nook and cranny of the nation's school and college system. Today, is no different. Live tweeting from Leeds City College, where anything up to ONE MILLION students resit their English and maths GCSEs every year, we have FE's favourite hack, Julia Belgutay:
A word from downing street...
Our new(ish) PM has offered his words of support and wisdom to nervous teenagers everywhere:
Good luck to all those receiving their GCSE results today. Nothing beats hard work and effort - and the greatest reward is knowing that you've done your best. #gcseresultsday2019— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) August 22, 2019
Do you spend results day grinning like a Cheshire cat? Do you bury your head in the sand, ostrich-style? (Has anyone actually seen a non-cartoon ostrich do this? Curious minds want to know.) Or are you more of a headless chicken?
There’s nothing like an animal analogy to brighten an otherwise stressful occasion. So, like a puffy-cheeked hamster, regurgitating much more GCSE-related content than you’d ever dreamed possible (the cuter the animal, the less plausible the analogy actually has to be. Them’s the rules), Tes offers you a natural-world guide to results-day behaviour.
Read the full article here.
The internet: home of baby wombats and fake grade boundaries
Ah, the internet. Home of absolutely everything you could possibly desire. Want to see a baby wombat having a bath? Well, obviously. Curious what you would look like aged 90 (in a handy, reversible way, which doesn’t actually involve being 90)? Easy. Always wondered how the theme tune to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air would read if it had been written by Shakespeare? Wonder no longer.
Desperate to know what the grade boundaries are for this year’s GCSEs, without actually waiting until they’re officially released? Well…
Oh. Actually, this one’s not as simple. Because it turns out that leaked information about this year’s grade boundaries are in fact fake. Doctored images of the supposed boundaries have been pounced on, passed on and pored over by pupils anxious to divine something about their own results from any available information.
Find out more here.
Sports day for swotty schoolkids
Possibly the best description I’ve ever read of education secretaries (and apologies to its originator, whose name is lost in the mists of memory) is that they were a bunch of swotty schoolchildren, who wanted an academic version of sports day.
And so we have high-stakes, winner-takes-it-all exams. The education secretaries of the world think this is a great system, because it allows schoolchildren like them to queue up for their medals, while telling the less-bright kids that it’s the taking part that counts.
Now, I was a swotty schoolkid myself. I spent much of my school career – and particularly those PE lessons when I was pitted against (and humiliated by) the sporty kids – wishing that there was an academic equivalent of sports day.
But, you know what? Then I grew up. And I realised that school is not just for swotty schoolkids. It’s also for those pupils who find PE – or art, or music, or making conversation with other people – easier than exams.
And so we see a situation where the deliberately tough new GCSEs, designed by former swotty schoolkids for other swotty schoolkids, has left headteachers genuinely concerned that large numbers of lower-ability pupils are being failed by the system.
Read the full story here.
GCS-what? When? How? Why?
If you’ve been soaking up so much sun and putting away so much rosé that you can no longer remember where you work, what it is people do there, and what exams are, anyway (and, if that isn’t the case, what on earth have you been doing with your summer holiday?), do not fear.
Aware that it is still the summer holidays, damn it, so why should you have to work, Tes has produced a handy all-you-need-to-know guide to this year’s GCSE results, incorporating everything the relaxation-addled teacher would need to know: important dates; information on the grading structure; recent debates and controversies; details about where to appeal and how to go about it.
So now you can be fully informed, without even having to roll off the sunlounger.
Find out everything here.
What will people be talking about tomorrow?
Of course, GCSE results are…oh, moderately stressful for heads and teachers, too. No matter how much you might have instructed yourself severely not to think about school while you were on holiday, there will have been more than a few poolside idylls punctuated by fears of pupil failure.
But perhaps this year will be stressful for subtly different reasons. With Ofsted promising to focus on curriculum implementation rather than results, the pressure is off teachers slightly.
But, where they were once concerned about their own career chances, post-GCSE, teachers are now worried about the career chances of “the forgotten third” of low-achieving pupils.
If this all seems rather complicated, and possibly as if the terrain is reconfiguring itself as quickly as you can decide which footwear is most appropriate for it, never fear. Tes news editor, William Stewart, is here to demystify it all for you. Never has a man looked so unperturbed by enormous exam grades hovering over his right shoulder.
Watch the video here: