General rise raises doubts about English reforms
GOVERNMENTS past and present would like to claim some of the credit for the past decade of steadily rising GCSE grades, pointing to initiatives such as the Office for Standards in Education's inspection system and exam performance tables.
This improvement, however, is not confined to England. Scotland, for example, which has no national curriculum or OFSTED inspections, has enjoyed a similar rise in results.
The same can be seen in Northern Ireland, despite major differences in the school system while in Wales, the pupils are now catching up their English counterparts.
Since 1988 the proportion of English pupils achieving five or more A*-C grades has increased by 15.2 percentage points. Girls have progressively increased their lead over boys with 50 per cent of girls and 40.5 per cent of boys getting five A*-Cs last year.
At the same time, the number of Scottish pupils with five 1-3 Standard grades has steadily increased by 12.5 percentage points over the past decade.
The proportion of Scottish pupils with five or more high grades is significantly higher than in England - 54.7 per cent in Scotland last year to England's 45.1 per cent.
In Wales, pupils have been catching up with English children at GCSE, with 44 per cent passing at least five GCSEs at grades A*-C, just 1 per cent behind English youngsters last year. In 199192 when the Welsh statistics were first recorded, the gap was 5.3 per cent. The difference between Welsh girls' and boys' performance has remained constant with girls 10 percentage points ahead.
In Northern Ireland, where schools are inspected by government inspectors and follow their own national curriculum, results are higher than in England with 53 per cent of pupils getting five or more A*-C grades last year, a slow increase from 48 per cent in 1993. Girls also out-perform boys by a greater margin than in England, with 60 per cent of girls getting five A*-C grades last year compared to 47 per cent of boys.