UK GCSE results 2021: record number of top grades and passes

Increase in A grades and above less steep than last year when Covid-19 first forced exams to be cancelled

GCSE pupils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on Thursday morning celebrated a second consecutive year of record grades and passes.

The proportion of pupils who achieved As and above was 28.9 per cent, an increase of 2.7 per cent on last year.

The overall pass percentage was 76.3 per cent, a rise of 0.8 per cent.

Unlike Tuesday's record A-level results, the percentage increases do not exceed the rise in top grades in 2020, the first year in which the Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of exams.

Then, the number of top grades allocated rose 9 per cent while the number of passes rose 5.4 per cent.

The modest improvement in this year's batch makes it easier for exam regulators to defend the credibility of the teacher-graded assessment system used to mark them.

Ofqual called it fair and thorough, although UK schools minister Nick Gibb said on Wednesday that he wanted to go back to exams in future, which he said were proven to be the fairest means of assessment, and where "significant changes" awarded to pupils were less rare.

This might be easier said than done, however, according to Prof Alan Smithers of the Centre of Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University.

He believes the trend to higher grades and less exam stress is a popular mix with pupils, parents and educators alike.

"It will be quite a task for the government to put the genie back into the bottle," he told the BBC.

Updated: August 12th 2021, 11:33 AM