Slight drop in GCSE pass marks as new grading system is implemented

Despite some confusion over the new numerical system, results remain largely unchanged in the UK

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After far-reaching changes in the GCSE system, nervous teenagers filled through the school gates on Thursday morning amid expectations that pass-rates had slipped back.

A new numerical grading system and deliberately tougher exams pushed down the overall performance, though the picture was mixed. The English Literature pass-rate fell 2.5 per cent in England to 72 per cent but the maths pass-rate rose 7.4 per cent to 68.9 per cent.

Overall in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the percentage of passes dropped 0.6 per cent to 66.3 per cent, while A* to C pass rates in Wales fell to its lowest since 2006.

“The new GCSEs are more challenging, and there are more papers, and this is putting severe pressure on young people,” said Geoff Barton, the Association of School and College Leaders general secretary. “We support a robust qualification system but it has to be balanced against the welfare of young people, and we are not sure the balance in the new system is correct.”

At Pimlico Academy in Southwest London, pupils were generally pleased as they collected their results but there were mixed emotions among some.

Sarah Al-Samm, 16, said: “I’m too scared to open my results now. I’ve got to go home and open them there.

“Overall, people at this school are very happy though; there’s lots of good grades.”

Even students pleased to have done well expressed confusion over the numerical system.

“I’m really happy with all my results and my friends have done very well too,” said Benisa Krasniqi, 16. “I don’t really see the point in the new numbers system for maths and English though, it just makes it quite confusing. The numbers make it feel like you’ve done worse than you really have, like you could get a five and that doesn’t sound that great but actually it’s like a low B or high C.”