More GCSE students record progress

The government says progress measures were 'impacted by the alternative processes to award grades in 2020'

Tes Reporter

GCSE resits: The majority of students did not make progress in English or maths, figures show

Most students did not make positive progress in English and maths at GCSE or equivalent – despite the proportion who did growing significantly this year following the cancellation of exams.

Since August 2014, students on 16 to 19 study programmes of 150 hours or more who do not hold at least a GCSE grade 4 (or equivalent) in English and/or maths are required to study these subjects

Statistics published today show 45.2 per cent of students made positive progress in English in 2019-20 – meaning over half did not. That compared with 37.7 per cent in 2018-19 and 37.3 per cent the year before that.

In maths, 44.6 per cent made positive progress in 2019-20 – 8 percentage points higher than in 2018-19 (36.5 per cent) and 6 percentage points higher than the same measure in 2017-18. Around 150,445 students were in the scope of this measure this year – a slightly lower number than in 2018-19.


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Student progress is calculated by the Department for Education by subtracting the points associated with their best grade during 16 to 18 from their points at the end of key stage 4.

How the coronavirus affected GCSE resits

The DfE said the maths and English qualifications reported in the progress measures (for example GCSEs and functional skills) were “impacted by the alternative processes to award grades in 2020”. Exams were cancelled this summer, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and students were instead awarded centre-assessed grades (CAGs). 

“As such, the historically large increases in progress, and the jump in the proportion of students making positive progress cannot be interpreted as a change in underlying performance,” said the DfE. 

Earlier this month, colleges saw thousands of students sitting GCSE exams in English and maths – with many institutions seeing cohorts oh hundreds of learners. 

While the overall number of candidates was expected to be similar to the November resits in previous years, some colleges were reporting a significant increase in entries, and others were seeing a drop.

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