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Britain's teenagers celebrate record GCSE results

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Britain's teenagers celebrate record GCSE results

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Education

Britain's teenagers celebrate record GCSE results Britain's teenagers celebrate record GCSE results

Britain's teenagers notched up record GCSE results today, with the largest annual rise in top exam grades for almost 20 years.

Figures released today show that 65.7% of the exams taken were awarded a C grade or above, an increase of 2.4% on last year and the largest year on year rise since 1990.

For the first time, more than one in five exams (20.7%) were given A* or As, the biggest rise since 1989.

The rises come despite the number of entries falling to a five year low.

There were about 5.7 million entries this summer compared with 5.8 million last year, a drop of 2.7%.

The Joint Council for Qualifications, which published the provisional national GCSE results today, said this was due to a number of factors.

Dr Mike Cresswell, director general of the AQA exam board, said it was partly due to a drop in the number of 16-year-olds across the country

There is also evidence that pupils being entered for GCSE English and maths early, in the November examinations, would have played a part. Those results are not included in today's figures.

There were suggestions that schools are focusing on quality not quantity, which could also explain the rising grades.

Dr Cresswell said the average number of GCSEs taken by students had fallen from just over eight five years ago to just under eight.

Dr Cresswell said: "It has to be the case from the decline in numbers that some young people are focusing their efforts on fewer GCSEs.

"That has been a trend that has been happening since 2003."

Dr John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said: "Perhaps schools are focusing on quality rather than quantity, they are recognising that there is no benefit to pupils to do 11 or 12 GCSEs, it is better to have eight or nine good GCSEs."

Some students could be dropping GCSEs in favour of vocational qualifications, he said.

Maths exams entries were down by 21,800 and English entries dropped by 10,700.

Dr Cresswell said that in maths, around 10,000 students would have taken the exam early and the other 10,000 are likely to have dropped it for the international GCSE.

The international GCSE is seen by some as "harder" and is favoured by some leading schools.

There was a massive slump in the numbers of pupils taking information technology - with entries down by more than 14,000.

Modern languages also took another hit, with French and German both suffering drops in entries. French was down by 6.8% on last year while German fell by 5.4%.

Dr Cresswell said the fall in candidates taking French and German suggested those languages were losing popularity, compared with Spanish, which has seen entries rise.

But he added that grades in French and German were increasing which suggested a select group of "motivated and talented" students were choosing those courses.

There was also movement in science entries, which was put down to changes to the science curriculum.

This year the science double award has been abolished and replaced by two separate qualifications, science and additional science.

Today's results showed that fewer candidates were taking additional science than previously took the double award.

But there were increased entries in the separate sciences, with biology up by 35.3%, chemistry up 29.4% and physics up 29.1%.

The Government wants to see at least 30% of pupils in every school achieve five good GCSEs (grades A* to C) including maths and English by 2011.

Today's results will be vital for the 638 schools in England which are currently not at this target and have been made part of the Government's National Challenge initiative. They have been warned that they face closure if they do not improve, and have been handed extra funding to improve their results.

Dr Dunford said special congratulations must go to those National Challenge schools which have improved this year.

He said the Government had made a "serious error of judgment" with the scheme as it had created "unnecessary damage to the reputation of many schools".

He said: "The National Challenge schools were announced as students were walking into their exams. Therefore there is absolutely no connection between the National Challenge and the improvements schools have made this year."

"Schools moving above and below the arbitrary threshold of 30% each year highlights the stupidity of putting a school's reputation at risk on the basis of a single year's results.

"The Government must make clear that the schools that have dipped below 30% this year are not failing. These schools need to know immediately if they are to be part of the National Challenge and, if so, what additional resources will be available to them."

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