Major uplift in top GCSE grades in UK after U-turn

Pupils’ GCSE grades were awarded by teachers after a flawed marking algorithm was scrapped

epa08614200 Secondary school students wait in line for their GCSE results at Kingsdale Foundation school in south London, Britain, 20 August 2020. The UK government has made a U-turn on how A-levels and GCSE results are graded following recent student protests.  Some forty percent of students across England had previously received downgraded results.  EPA/ANDY RAIN
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A record number of GCSE passes have been achieved in England with more than a quarter of grades awarded the highest marks after a tumultuous year that saw the government savaged for overseeing a grading fiasco after pupils were unable to sit their exams.

Around 76 per cent of entries received a mark classed as a pass, up from 67.1 per cent in 2019, as more than 600,000 pupils received their results, the government said.

Grades were awarded by teachers after physical exams were cancelled amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

This chart shows how this year's results compare to those in 2019.


Earlier this week the government bowed to pressure amid pupil protests and ditched a flawed algorithm that was used to calculate the A-Level results released last week.

Nearly 40 per cent of school leavers had their marks downgraded from the initial teacher predictions via a moderation system that adversely affected pupils from disadvantaged areas.

This endless pattern of incompetence is no way to run a country

It emerged on Thursday that the embattled Education Minister, Gavin Williamson, was warned in June that the algorithm was flawed after a former senior official told him it would be only 75 per cent accurate at best.

The opposition Labour Party condemned the news.

"Mr Williamson was warned again and again about the problems with the grading algorithm, and each time, he did nothing," said Kate Green, its education spokeswoman. "This endless pattern of incompetence is no way to run a country."

Adding to the chaos was the announcement on Wednesday by the exam board Pearson that it would recalculate grades for BTECs, specialist work-related qualifications, only hours before pupils were due to receive their results.

"We have become concerned about unfairness, including consistency with the approaches now being used for GCSE and A-Levels," it said.

Speaking after the results were released, Mr Williamson paid tribute to pupils.

“Young people getting their results today can feel incredibly proud of all they’ve achieved in the face of immense challenge and uncertainty,” he said.

The leader of the Scottish Conservative Party – of which Mr Williamson is a member – refused to give his backing to the education minister when asked if he should resign.

“That is a decision for Gavin Williamson. It’s a decision for the prime minister, if he continues to have the trust of the prime minister,” Douglas Ross said.

"I'm not here to say in your report that I think Gavin Williamson has done a great job and he should continue. I think he has to reflect on what happened to so many pupils in England, students who were concerned for four days, because we had the exact same up here in Scotland for a week," he told BBC Radio Scotland.