Student receives results at Birchwood Community High School Warrington

GCSE passes for England’s pupils, in the most disrupted academic year in UK history, have risen dramatically.

Grades have been awarded by schools, after exams were cancelled, and data shows 78.8% of papers were rated grade 4 or above. It was 69.9% in 2019.

There was a rise of a quarter in the top grades – a 7 or above, which is equivalent to an A in the old system.

The exams season has been dogged by chaos, with policy changes leading to grades being altered at the 11th hour.

In the latest debacle BTec grades were pulled hours before pupils were to receive them although some schools are giving out grades, which were assessed by schools, anyway.

England exams watchdog, Ofqual is clear that the two years cannot be compared but its efforts to maintain standards through a now discredited algorithm have led to huge problems in the education system and stress for students.

In Wales, first estimates from the watchdog Qualifications Wales show almost 26% of pupils have received A* and A grades, compared to 18.4% in 2019.

And 74.5% received A*-C grades, compared to 62.8% in 2019.

Meanwhile almost all pupils – 99.6% – received passes at A*-G grades, compared to 97.2% last year.

‘The U-turn was for the best’

Evie, 15, from Bexleyheath Academy in London says it’s been a challenging year, but but she’s “over the moon” with the results.

“My hard work has paid off so there’s a sense of relief.”

Image caption

Evie says the uncertainty has been hard

Cory, 16, who did both GCSEs and BTecs said he was proud of his grades.

“2020 has been unfortunate, but I feel like I’ve made the best of the situation and I’ve stayed happy for the whole year.”

Harriet, 16, relieved when her GCSE grades came through: “I honestly don’t think I could have been happier with the results.”

Image caption

Harriet feels for next summer’s exam candidates

“The U-turn was for the best.”

Graeme Napier, principal of Bexleyheath Academy, said it was great to see happy students.

“It’s reassuring that the awarding bodies have agreed to look at the results again – the important thing is that students get the results they deserve.”

‘Unprecedented disruption’

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said young people should feel “incredibly proud of all they’ve achieved in the face of immense challenge and uncertainty”.

“I also want to pay a special tribute to teachers and school leaders this year who have shown dedication, resilience and ingenuity to support their students to get to this moment.”

Image caption

Brothers Victor (r) and Jude receive their results at Bexleyheath Academy

Geoff Barton, head of the head teachers’ union ASCL, said students and teachers should be congratulated.

“These have been extraordinarily difficult circumstances, and this generation of young people has suffered a degree of uncertainty and disruption that is without precedent.

“They lost out on the normal rites of passage of leaving school, and on the chance to show what they could do in a set of exams.

“And they must have been watching the news anxiously following last week’s A-level results to see if they were going to lose out again because a computer algorithm might downgrade them – before the government and Ofqual performed a U-turn and reverted to centre-assessed grades.”

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