GCSE resits: English and maths pass rates drop

Among learners aged 17 and older, the proportion of students obtaining a grade 4 in the core subjects has fallen

Fewer students resitting their GCSE maths and English exams in colleges and sixth forms have got a grade 4 compared to last year

The proportion of students aged 17 and above that achieved a 'standard' grade 4 pass in GCSE English and maths has fallen, official figures have revealed.

This year was the first in which all students sat the reformed, linear 9-1 GCSEs in the subjects, including GCSE resit students, many of whom had previously sat the old-style versions of the qualifications.

Data from the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), published this morning, shows that, of the 161,139 entries this summer for students aged 17-plus taking GCSE maths, 22.7 per cent achieved a grade 4 or higher – down 14.3 percentage points compared with 2017. 

For candidates of all ages across the UK, the grade 4 pass rate stood at 59.8 per cent.

The results for GCSE English show that, of the 148,986 entries from students aged 17 and above, 33.1 per cent achieved a grade 4 or higher. Last year, the figure stood at 35.5 per cent. 

For candidates of all ages across the UK, the grade 4 pass rate stood at 62 per cent.

Hundreds of thousands may be forced to resit

Across all GCSE entries in English and maths, more than 296,000 entries resulted in a grade 3. These candidates, under the condition of funding rules, will be required to resit the qualifications if they enrol at a college or sixth form in September.

Those with a grade 2 or below in GCSE maths and/or English at school will have to continue to study the subjects at college, but they can take either a GCSE or an approved stepping-stone qualification to meet the condition of funding.

Last summer was the last chance for students to resit the older version of GCSEs (graded A*-G) and also brought the first sittings of the new, linear GCSEs (graded 9-1) in English and maths.

Last year was 'atypical' cohort 

On the 14.3 per cent fall in the number of students aged 17 or older getting a grade 4, Alex Scharaschkin, director of research and compliance at exam board AQA said: “What that reflects, as you see with the entries, is a massive in the 17 plus entries – up over 400 per cent.

"The 17-year-olds this year who are resitting GCSEs are resitting the 9-1 papers. Last year there weren’t very many who did the 9-1 paper so they were atypical of this cohort and we would expect future cohorts to be more like the picture you see here, with a big 17-year-old entry.”

£4.5m for teacher development 

There was a 400 per cent increase in the number of students aged 17 or older taking the new 9-1 maths GCSE, as the old format no longer meets the condition of funding for colleges and sixth forms.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “This summer, many tens of thousands of students aged 17 and over in England successfully resat their mathematics and English GCSEs and gained a standard pass, thanks to the efforts of students, teachers, schools and colleges across the country.

“Students who leave school with a good grasp of English and maths increase their chances of securing a job, an apprenticeship or going onto further education.

"To ensure this continues, we committed £50m on top of previous investment to improve maths teaching for post-16 pupils. In addition, we’re putting £4.5m a year into professional development for teachers to improve the quality of maths and English at post-16 level.”

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