Girls raced ahead of boys today in the new GCSEs with two thirds of the top new ‘grade 9’ marks awarded to female pupils, as overall pass rates plunged following the biggest shake-up of exams in a generation.
Under the overhaul, traditional A* to G grades are being gradually replaced in England with a 9 to 1 system. The key GCSEs of English and maths are the first to move across, with other subjects following over the next two years.
It follows education reforms in England led by former education secretary Michael Gove six years ago, with the overhaul of GCSEs from 2013 expected to ‘set higher expectations’, and ‘demand more from all students’.
Some 50,000 grade 9s were awarded across the board – and two thirds of these were awarded to girls, with the gender gap roughly the same as last year in the key subjects at A*.
Today’s figures show that across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the proportion of entries scoring at least an A grade – or a 7 under the new system – has fallen by 0.5 percentage points to 20 per cent compared to last year.
(From left) Emily Johnson, Stella Jones, Macie Bisicker-Peacock and Lily Tate compared their GCSE results at Polam Hall School in Darlington, County Durham, today as girls raced ahead of boys in the overhauled qualifications
Groups of excited girls share their GCSE results with each other outside Brighton College in East Sussex today
Brighton College GCSE students pick up their results today. Around 50,000 English and maths GCSEs were awarded the new highest grade this summer, as the impact of the biggest shake-up of exams for a generation began to be felt
(From left) Bashmy Basheer, Akshat Sharma, Tharunkumar Muthu Gurunath and Aashish Khimasia at Queen Elizabeth’s School in Barnet, North London. The school achieved its best-ever GCSE results with a record 70% awarded the top grades
Boys at Merchant Taylors’ Boys’ School in Crosby, Liverpool, talk with each other after receiving their results today
(From left) Ella Todd, Sophie Gant and Molly Riordan collect their GCSE results at Norwich School in Norfolk today
A selection of the 51 boys who got 9 or A* grades hold up A* signs at King Edward’s School in Birmingham today
Sarah Hand who gained ten A*’s celebrates with her dog and mother Maria McCann at Victoria College in Belfast today
As hundreds of thousands of teenagers opened their results today, it was also revealed that the percentage gaining a C or above – or a 4 under the new system – is down 0.6 percentage points to 66.3 per cent.
Only 2.6 per cent of pupils got the new grade 9 in English language this year – compared with 4 per cent achieving an A* last year. And in maths, only 3.5 per cent got a 9 – compared with 7 per cent gaining an A* last year.
How new grades have exposed gender gap
- Male – 1.5%
- Female: 3.7%
The data released by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) today shows that among 16-year-olds in England:
- In the first year of the new grading system for English and maths, the top grades dropped by about half
- Girls outperformed boys in 9 grades in both English GCSEs, while boys did better in maths
- The overall A*-C pass rate dropped 0.6 percentage points to 66.3 per cent
- In maths, 3.5 per cent of entries – around 18,617 in total – scored a 9
- In English, 2.6 per cent of entries – around 13,754 in total – scored a 9
- In English literature, 3.3 per cent – around 17,187 in total – scored a 9
Just over 2,000 students aged 16 in England this year got a clean sweep of 9 grades across maths, English literature and English language – just 0.4 per cent of the 535,000 students who took these subjects.
A far greater 1.1 per cent got a clean sweep of A*s in these subjects last year – roughly 6,500 – so Oxford and Cambridge universities will find it much easier to distinguish who the really exceptional students are this year.
The new GCSEs focus on end of course exams rather than coursework. Historically girls have done better when it comes to top marks in English and boys have done better in maths.
Last Thursday as the A-level results were released, it emerged that the gender gap was starting to close between boys and girls.
Student Nadine Agius (left) with her mother Vanita Daraji (right) celebrates after getting her results at The Mount School York
Lauren Hindley (left) and Winifred Wright (right) celebrate their GCSE results today at Woldingham School in Surrey
A group of boys jump in the air at Merchant Taylors’ Boys’ School in Crosby, Liverpool, after receiving their GCSE results
Imogen Lloyd (left) celebrates with Hollie Jones after receiving her GCSE results at Ffynone House School in Swansea, Wales
Student Holly Blake (right) with her mother Lauren Blake (left) celebrate after collecting her results at The Mount School York
(From left) Holly Ryan, Deqa Mohammed, Monica Bustamante and Elise Mouricette-Johnson celebrate after collecting their GCSE results at Sion-Manning Roman Catholic Girls School in Ladbroke Grove, West London
Twins Dan and Ben Pluck, both 16, are celebrating after achieving 18 A*s at GCSE at Brighton College today. Dan got 10 A*s and two sevens in English literature and language, while Ben gained eight A*s, an A and nine and eight in English
Aaliyah Wallace who received 11 A*s students at the King Edward School in Birmingham celebrates today
(From left) Bethan Spacey, Hollie Jones, Elinor Beasley and Imogen Lloyd smile with their results at Ffynone House School in Swansea
Major reforms to A-levels in recent years have included a move away from coursework and modular exams – which appears to be benefiting boys.
Sister whose brother died in Manchester attack gets 11 A* grades
The sister of a Coronation Street superfan murdered in the Manchester bombing today learned she had A* GCSEs having sat an exam just a day after he was killed.
Brave: Nikita Murray, 16, pictured with her brother Martyn who died in the terror attack
Nikita Murray, 16, was told by her school they would accept her predicted grades after the death of her brother Martyn in May but she still wanted to take all 11.
Her extraordinary story was today revealed by her older brother Dan, who says he hopes her determination will ‘inspire’ others.
Martyn, a 29-year-old PR manager, was one of 22 people killed when suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated a device as crowds left an Ariana Grande concert.
Describing what happened to his sister after, Dan Hett tweeted: ‘Under the most horrific conditions, after going through (and continuing to go through) it all, she didn’t skip a beat.
‘It was hands-down the toughest s*** I have ever seen. Sleeves rolled up, get it done. Nothing wasted despite it all
‘She got her results today. Eleven A* grades. I have never been more proud or amazed by anyone. In conclusion: my kid sister is the toughest person I have ever met. Don’t mess with her. Be inspired!’
Experts had predicted the new GCSE format might favour boys as they have on average done better when courses are based around end of year exams. But today’s results suggest this has had less of an impact than expected.
Alan Smithers, professor of education at the University of Buckingham, said: ‘The change to final exams has had less impact on the gender gap than might have been expected.
‘In the results for Year 11 entrants, boys have moved further ahead in maths and have narrowed the gap in English language at the level of a good pass.
‘The English results are difficult to interpret this year because of the massive switch back from the IGCSE which no long counts in the league tables.’
Professor Smithers said he calculated that the proportion of 16-year-old boys in England scoring a 7 or higher – an A*-A under the old grading system – in English language had fallen by 0.5 percentage points to 11.4 per cent compared with last year, while girls had seen a one-point fall to 22.3 per cent.
In maths, the proportion of boys scoring 7 or above had risen one point to 20.6 per cent, while girls saw a drop from 19.9 per cent achieving at least an A grade last year to 19.3 per cent gaining at least a 7.
‘It does look as though the move to end-of-course examinations has enabled the boys to narrow the gap at this level for English and move ahead in maths,’ Prof Smithers said.
Experts have previously suggested that girls tend to respond to modular courses, as they can apply themselves throughout the course, working towards specific modules or coursework, whereas boys are more likely to revise in the weeks before a final exam.
Fewer candidates have achieved a 9 compared to the proportion that gained an A* under the traditional A*-G grading system, following the deliberate move to change the system to allow more differentiation.
One of the main reasons for the change was to better separate the brightest candidates.
Last year, 4 per cent of 16-year-olds in England scored an A* in English language, along with 7 per cent in maths.
The grading switch is part of wider reforms designed to make GCSEs more challenging.
There are now three top grades – 7, 8 and 9 – compared to two under the old system – A* and A – with A* results now split into 8s and 9s.
But the results are expected to damage some bright pupils’ prospects of getting an offer from Oxbridge, because those who previously might have got all A* grades are finding it harder to get 9s.
This year’s pupils are the first year group to sit the new GCSEs in maths, English language and English literature.
Tanvi Goel celebrates at Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School in Liverpool today after achieving six A*s, two As and two 9 grades
Hannah Evans is all smiles after achieving six A*s and four As (6A* 4A) at Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School in Liverpool today
Khaira Ashcroft (left), who has got two 9s, eight A*s and one A, celebrates at Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School in Liverpool (where other pupils are pictured, right)
Teja Jingree hugs a member of staff at Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School in Liverpool today after achieving five A*s and two As
Some 50,000 grade 9s were awarded across the board – and two thirds of these were awarded to girls (Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School in Liverpool is pictured)
Chloe Jones, who has achieved two A*s, four As and two 8s, celebrates at Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School in Liverpool
Girls at Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School in Liverpool discuss their GCSE results with each other after picking them up today
A very happy Magdalena O’Connon-Manson celebrates her eight A*s along with an 8 and 9 at Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School
One student in Bristol who scored a string of top grades in her GCSEs said she was surprised by her results.
Zoe Ball and ex Norman Cook unite to pick up son Woody’s results
Zoe Ball and former husband Norman Cook put on a united front today as their son picked up his GCSE results.
The couple, who also have a daughter Nelly, seven, split last September after almost 18 years together.
Woody Cook and his mother Zoe Ball
But they turned up at Brighton College together this morning when their son Woody, 16, picked up his results.
Both Ball, 46, and Cook, 54 were delighted with their son’s grades and hugged him as he proudly waved the results sheet.
Woody achieved an 8 in English language, a 7 in English literature, a 6 in maths, B in computer science, and As in drama, design and technology, science and additional science.
Woody with his father Norman Cook today
Woody – who is now off to Reading Festival in Berkshire to celebrate his results – said: ‘The new system has made me happier with my marks because an 8 seems higher.’
Ball said: ‘He was worried about maths. Your granddad is going to be very proud because he got an A for Science. I’m so proud of him. Norman and I have had a little cry in the car waiting for him to come out.’
Woody’s grandfather is children’s TV presenter Johnny Ball, who popularised science and maths for youngsters in the 1980s.
High-achieving pupil Grace George, 16, achieved grade 9s in English literature and maths and an 8 in English language at St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School in the city.
‘I didn’t expect my results and I thought they might have made a mistake,’ she joked. ‘I feel the grade boundaries were lower because it was the first year and I am pretty proud of my grade in English.’
The teenager from Whitehall in Bristol added: ‘I want to study medicine or possibly maths at university.’
Fellow student Tim Gibberd scored a 9 – the new highest grade – in maths, a 7 in English literature and a 6 in English language. He also picked up 4A*s and three As in his other GCSEs.
‘I am quite pleased. I was expecting a mix of A*s and As and I got that,’ the 16-year-old, from the Clifton area of Bristol, said.
‘I felt the new system in maths worked really well. I am looking forward to A-levels. I did fairly well in the subjects I plan on studying, biology, maths, chemistry and physics.’
Head teacher Elisabeth Gilpin said: ‘This has been a year of great change and challenge for everyone within state education.
‘In face of this national picture, I am incredibly grateful to our students and staff for their tireless work and dedication to achieve such fantastic results in 2017.
‘We are delighted that 84 per cent of our students have achieved grades C/4 or above which marks a significant improvement on very good results last year.
‘In maths and English language 88 per cent of students obtained a grade 4 or above. Our highest attaining students again performed extremely well with 32 per cent of all results graded at A/7 or above.’
Meanwhile a deaf teenager was celebrating after gaining eight A*s at GCSE and said her results show deaf children can overcome the ‘stereotype’ of underachieving.
Jessica Olliver, from Hove, East Sussex, achieved her top grades, as well as a seven and six in English and two As and a B, at Brighton College.
The 16-year-old, who was born profoundly deaf but had cochlear implants at aged two and eight, said: ‘I’m quite pleased with my results, I didn’t expect that at all, when I opened the paper I was really shocked.’
Jessica said her disability had made her more determined and added: ‘Because I hear significantly less than others then it’s like I have to work more to be able to hear what the teacher says, so I have to strain more in classes so sometimes I get more tired than others.
‘Overall, the main issue, my language was a lot less than everyone else’s because I only started talking when I was three which was a lot later than everyone else and I had to work to catch up with everyone else but I think I got there.’
She added: ‘In the deaf community there is this stereotype that we can’t do as well as others so I wanted to prove that was wrong.’
Jessica said her ambition was to become a lawyer and will go on to study history, politics, maths and geography at A-level.
This year’s youngest GCSE candidate has earned an impressive C grade in mathematics – despite being just six. Alexsha Monforte from London picked up her certificate today, despite taking the exam ten years earlier than she should. The brainy girl was awarded a grade 5 under the new exam scoring system, which is equivalent to a C. She studied with the Excellence in Education programme, led by Professor Chris Imafidon, alongside a group of other bright youngsters aged six to 12
Twin stars at King Edward’s School in Birmingham (from left) Benjamin and Sebastian Bellavia, 16 who both got ten A*s and an A; twin Girls Antar-Jot Mahan who got 10 A*s and sister Antar-Preet Mahan who got 7 A*s, 2 As and a B
Pupils at Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School in Liverpool excitedly discuss their results on what is a nervy day across the country
Teja Jingree is hugged by a proud family member at Merchant Taylors’ Girls’ School in Liverpool today after getting her results
Students celebrate a string of top GCSE grades at St Mary and Temple School in Bristol this morning
Tim Gibberd (left), 16, and Grace George (right), 16, both celebrate their grades at St Mary and Temple School in Bristol today
Hollie Jones hugs a friend after receiving her GCSE results today at Ffynone House School in Swansea, South Wales
At the same college a set of triplets are celebrating after achieving 17 A* grades at GCSE between them.
Teenager who escaped from Grenfell inferno scoops A in Chemistry
A teenager who escaped from the Grenfell Tower blaze on the eve of her chemistry GCSE has been awarded an A grade.
Ines Alves escaped the Grenfell Tower fire
Ines Alves, who lived with her family on the 13th floor, fled the burning tower block in the middle of the night with just her phone and chemistry notes before sitting the 9am exam in the same clothes she left in.
The 16-year-old also gained the highest possible grade, a 9, in her maths GCSE – equivalent to an A* under the old system.
Speaking at Sacred Heart High School in Hammersmith, West London, moments after opening her results, she said: ‘It’s good. I’m quite happy with my grades.’
She added: ‘I wish I did more, but then again, I don’t know, it hasn’t sunk in yet. For the exams I missed, I didn’t do too well in them overall.’
Ines missed two history exams, one RE exam and one physics exam in the days after the fire, which affected her overall grades.
She said she initially thought the fire was ‘nothing major’ and just wanted to sit the paper. ‘That’s all I had on I had on my mind,’ she said.
‘There was no point me carrying on watching the building burning so I just went in.’
Alice, Jamie and Tom Heap, all 16, from Hove, East Sussex, said they are happy with their results and are now planning to carry on their studies at A-level.
As well as achieving seven A*s and two As, Alice gained two 9s in the revamped English GCSE subjects.
Speaking of the new marking system, Alice said: ‘It was a bit stressful because it was unknown but I am happy with what I got and it gives a bigger spectrum of results as well which is good.’
However, there have already been indications of chaos and confusion over the changes as:
• Lord Baker and the Institute of Directors warned the new GCSEs would leave employers puzzled
• Ofsted director Mike Sheridan said making predictions for the new grades would be too ‘challenging’ for schools
• Ofqual admitted greater number of students may get the wrong mark in comparison with previous years.
• Teaching leaders warned the new qualifications are creating too much anxiety for students and said they were being treated as ‘guinea pigs’
• A former exams boss urged the government to drop its policy of resits for those failing to achieve a decent mark in the new harder exams.
The new qualifications have tougher content, are assessed through exam rather than coursework and have a new numerical scale to replace the old alphabet system.
The three subjects are being assessed on a 1-9 scale, with 9 the top mark and 1 the bottom mark.
The new scale allows for better differentiation between the high-performing candidates, with grades 7, 8 and 9.
Professor Smithers said: ‘There are likely to be very few grade 9s this year. There are already few A* grades in English and maths.
‘And now these are to be spread across grades 8 and 9. With tougher content and exams they will be even thinner on the ground.’
The new scale, which contains more grades, has been created in response to concerns that universities and employers were unable to differentiate well enough between good pupils and exceptional ones.
The bottom of the old A is aligned with the bottom of the new 7, while the bottom of the old C is aligned with the new 4.
The rest of the subjects will be assessed using A*-G this year, but will switch to the numerical system in future years as reformed versions are phased in. But there have been concerns the new system may create problems.
Students (from left) Abigail Burton and Nadine Agius at The Mount School York celebrate after collecting their GCSE results
Elinor Beasley reads her GCSE results at Ffynone House School in Swansea. Welsh pupils are still being graded A* to G
Clara Harrison (left) who achieved 10 A*s and an A at King Edward VI School in Birmingham celebrates with her sister Emily
A pupil smiles as she shows off her GCSE results at Sheffield High School for Girls in South Yorkshire today
(From left) Bethan Spacey, Hollie Jones and Elinor Beasley take a selfie on results day at Ffynone House School in Swansea
Lord Baker, the former education secretary who introduced GCSEs, said the numerical system would leave people ‘puzzled’ and claimed employers would not understand it.
The Institute of Directors (IoD) has said its members may think the 1 to 9 system is ‘gibberish’ and instead favour job candidates with old style lettered GCSE grades.
Yesterday, there was also a warning from senior Ofsted director Mike Sheridan, who said schools would find it ‘incredibly challenging’ to predict grades while the changes bed in and did not expect them to do so.
And Ofqual has already admitted in a technical briefing that a greater number of students may get the wrong mark in comparison with previous years.
It warned of the ‘profound effect’ that introducing more grade boundaries will have – since it means the marking errors that occur every year are likely to have more of an impact on the resulting grade.
The number of pupils requesting their paper to be remarked is likely to spike this year as teachers and parents eye the changes with suspicion.
Under recent reforms, those not achieving a 4 – equivalent to a C – in English and maths will have to resit the exams.
Only around a quarter of those resitting are expected to pass the second time round.
Yesterday, Mark Dawe, the former boss of the OCR exam board, called for the government to scrap the policy and instead fund alternative qualifications.
He said: ‘English and maths are important for the whole population but the resits policy is leading to mass failure.
Everything you need to know about the GCSE reforms
- The new courses feature much less coursework than the old GCSEs, and modular courses – which saw pupils sit papers throughout their studies
- New reformed GCSEs are being introduced gradually. The first, which will be awarded for the first time today, are English language, English literature and maths. These are core GCSEs taken by all pupils.
- The next wave, with grades awarded for the first time next summer, include the sciences, history, geography and some modern languages, with others such as art, music and drama being given grades for the first time in 2018
- The new English and maths courses have more content and are tougher
- A new grading system has been introduced for the new GCSE courses, to clearly separate them from the old qualifications. Under the new system, traditional A* to G grades have been replaced with a 9 to 1 system, with 9 the highest mark.
‘The government should abandon it now and instead focus on Functional Skills being a good alternative.’
Key figures from this year’s GCSE results
- The proportion of entries receiving the top grades (A/7 or above) has fallen to 20%, down 0.5 percentage points on last year. This is the lowest since 2007 when the figure was 19.5%
- For entries receiving a C/4 grade or above, the figure for 2017 was 66.3%, a drop of 0.6 percentage points on 2016, and the lowest since 2008
- In the subjects where a new grading system has been introduced, 3.5% of 16-year-olds in England scored the highest grade 9 in maths, 3.3% scored grade 9 in English literature, and 2.6% scored grade 9 in English
- In English literature, 72.6% of entries got C/4 or above, down from 75.1% last year. In English the figure rose from 60.2% to 62.1%
- In maths the overall proportion of entries getting C/4 or above dropped from 61% in 2016 to 59.4%
- The overall gap between girls and boys getting grade C/4 or above has widened since last year. Some 71% of girls got C/4 or higher compared with 61.5% of boys, a gap of 9.5 percentage points. Last year the gap was 8.9 points
- The overall pass rate is unchanged on 2016. The proportion of entries receiving G/1 or above was 98.4%
- In total there were 5,443,072 entrants for the exams, up 4% on last year
Meanwhile the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) warned the reformed GCSEs would create more anxiety for students.
General secretary Geoff Barton, said: ‘We have already had reports from members of increased stress and anxiety among pupils this year, and this will intensify next year.
‘We know from numerous reports that there is a rising tide of mental health issues among young people and we are concerned the new exams will make the situation worse.
‘The new GCSEs are more challenging, and there are more papers, and this is putting severe pressure on young people.
‘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.’
Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said of the new GCSEs: ‘The Government’s calamitous, rushed through reforms to the exams system have put extreme pressure on pupils taking their GCSEs this year.
‘We can only hope pupils aren’t put at a disadvantage after being used as guinea pigs. The haste with which the exam reforms been have rushed in has not given schools enough time to prepare and to get to grips with the changes.
‘Teachers have not been able to predict their pupil’s results, and the information provided by exam boards about the standards expected was entirely inadequate.’
The reforms were instigated by former education secretary Michael Gove following concerns about ‘dumbing down’ and grade inflation.
In the new reformed maths GCSE, there is enhanced content in topics such as ratio, proportion and rates of change.
In the new English language GCSE, there is greater emphasis on spelling and grammar – while in English literature a wider range of reading is required.
Ofqual chief regulator Sally Collier said: ‘Today’s results reflect years of careful planning.
‘We have used the same tried and tested principle of comparable outcomes, as in previous years, to ensure that this first cohort of students is not disadvantaged.
‘If a student receives a grade 7 today, they could have expected to have received a grade A last year.
‘And if they get a grade 4, they could have expected to get a grade C in 2016.’
Schools minister Nick Gibb said: ‘A new grading system was needed to distinguish between the old and the new reformed GCSEs.
‘The new grading system also provides stretch for the highest performers by showing greater distinction between the top marks.’
But the headmaster of Brighton College has criticised the announcement by two exam boards – OCR and Edexcel – that a single request for a remark could lead to an automatic review of the whole cohort’s marks.
He said this could lead to students finding out later that their grades had been downgraded because of the remark.
Richard Cairns said: ‘In a year of such uncertainty, with new exams and, by definition, inexperienced markers, this should be waived immediately. Exam boards should not be threatening candidates or schools in this way.’
Bangladeshi immigrant’s son is off to Eton with 13 A*/As
The brainy son of a Bangladeshi immigrant is to follow in the footsteps of Prime Ministers and Princes after 13 A*/A grade GCSEs earned him a sixth form scholarship at Eton.
Straight A student Kaashif Kamaly, 16, says he can’t wait to get started at the college where Winston Churchill as well as Princes William and Harry were educated after achieving 6 A*s and 7 As.
He will swap Forest Gate Community School in London’s East End for the world-famous public school in September.
Kaashif Kamaly, the brainy son of a Bangladeshi immigrant, achieved 13 A grade GCSEs to earn himself a sixth form scholarship at Eton
He said: ‘I’m so happy words can’t even describe. I’m totally in shock. It’s been a difficult couple of years, but I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved – and it’s thanks to my parents and the school.’
He added: ‘The first part of the three part educational trilogy has finished. Eton college next. I’ve worked so hard, now I’ve finally done it. I feel like I’ve proved myself. ‘Eton is renowned for having the best education so I’m grateful to go there.’
Kaashif credits his ‘hero’ father Shah Mia, who works as an immigration officer at Heathrow despite a disability, and his mother Shewly Begum, as having instilled a strong work ethic into him.
He said that he had been turned down by a lot of colleges, but he had definitely ‘saved the best till last.’ Kaashif said going to Eton for the first time was quite intimidating.
Kaashif credits his ‘hero’ father and his mother Shewly Begum (pictured together) as having instilled a strong work ethic into him
He said: ‘It was quite scary visiting. There is a hump you go over when you get there and first see the school, and I felt my guts plummet.
‘It was an emotional rollercoaster on the first day. But integration was swift and I was treated as one of their own.’
The student, who will be joining the elite of English education, said he was relieved to achieve the GCSE results he did.
He added: ‘I’m relieved with what I got, what I have in front me: it’s opened a gateway. To say it’s a victory for myself is an injustice. I would say it’s 80 per cent down to the school. They have really pushed me. It’s a debt that can’t be repaid.’
Exam success for Manchester attack victim, 15, who took test from her sofa
A courageous teenager who suffered terrible shrapnel injuries in the Manchester terrorist attack has aced her GCSE English exam a year early after taking the test lying on her sofa.
Millie Robson, who attends Woodham Academy, in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, told her mother almost straight after coming out of surgery that she still wanted to sit the exam.
Along with her friend Laura Anderson, both 15, she was struck by the blast that killed 22 people in Manchester Arena.
Millie Robson (pictured with mother Marie), 15, who was injured in the Manchester bombings, took her English a year early
Queen Elizabeth II speaks to Millie and her mother, Marie, during a visit to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital in May
Millie She had already met Ariana Grande before the concert at the Manchester Arena on May 22 having won a competition
Despite suffering awful injuries, she bravely directed the emergency services away from her in the aftermath to treat others more seriously wounded.
Laura Anderson, 15, has received a top English GCSE grade despite sitting the exam a fortnight after the atrocity
Coming into school to collect her result, she found out she had achieved a 6 in her English language exam.
‘I’m really happy with my result,’ she said. ‘I always saw myself doing it because I was really determined to do the exam and come back to school as quick as possible.
‘I took it three days after I came out of hospital and did it on my couch with the invigilator sat in the corner. I did it on a tray lying on the couch, it was a lot less stressful than what it would have been in the hall.’
She had already met Ariana Grande before the concert having won a competition and was then pictured meeting the Queen in her hospital bed.
She said: ‘I remember there were a lot of people a lot worse off than I was and I was in a position where I had people who were helping me out, so when you can hear kids that are really young screaming and crying in pain obviously any decent person would tell the emergency services to sort them out before they come to you.
‘The support I have been getting from a lot of people – people from all over the world have been messaging me asking how I’m doing, and that has made me want to get better as quickly as possible.’
Her friend Laura received a top English GCSE grade despite sitting the exam a fortnight after the atrocity.
She took the English language test after suffering shrapnel wounds in the Ariana Grande concert blast.
Laura, who got her result while on holiday in Spain, said: ‘I’m really happy with it. I was so glad when I found out I got a 7. Honestly, I’m so happy I made the decision to take it, even though I couldn’t really focus on revision.’
See how well you would do at GCSE maths and English!
The changes to GCSE English and maths are aimed at making the exams ‘more challenging’, according to Government policy objectives.
In England, the overhaul saw traditional A* to G grades replaced with a 9 to 1 system in both core subjects.
In maths, there is more content on topics such as number, ration and proportion, and pupils have to show clear mathematical arguments for their calculations and remember key formulae.
Here are some questions from specimen mathematics higher-tier papers from the AQA exam board.
:: Circle the calculation that increases 400 by 7%
400 x 0.07.
400 x 0.7.
400 x 1.07.
400 x 1.7.
:: Solve 5x – 2 @ 3x + 11
:: White paint costs £2.80 per litre. Blue paint costs £3.50 per litre
White paint and blue paint are mixed in the ratio 3 : 2.
Work out the cost of 18 litres of the mixture.
:: There are four prime numbers between 300 and 330
How many prime numbers are there between 300 and 450?
:: Write 252 as the product of its prime factors
According to AQA guidance, to achieve the highest 8-9 grades, pupils must be able to show they can: ‘Construct substantial chains of reasoning, including convincing arguments and formal proofs … and critically evaluate methods, arguments, results and the assumptions made.’
In English literature, students have to read a wide range of classic literature, including 19th century novels, Shakespeare and the Romantic poets.
In one specimen paper from exam board Edexcel, students are asked to answer a question on one Shakespearian work and one question on a post-1914 famous play or novel.
A sample question on Macbeth gives an extract, then suggests candidates spend around an hour answering both of the following questions for a total of 40 marks.
:: A) Explore how Shakespeare presents the character of Lady Macbeth as being in control in this extract.
Refer closely to the extract in your answer.
:: B) In this extract, there is conflict between the characters.
Explain the importance of conflict elsewhere in the play.
In your answer you must consider
:: How conflict is shown
:: The reasons for the conflict.
You should refer to the context of the play in your answer.
GCSE pass rate by area
Here is the GCSE pass rate for students receiving grades C/4 and above, broken down by nation and region.
The figure in brackets is the change in percentage points on 2016.
- England 66.1% (down 0.4)
- Wales 62.8% (down 3.8)
- Northern Ireland 79.5% (up 0.4)
- North east England 63.4% (down 1.7)
- North west England 64.4% (down 1.1)
- Yorkshire and Humber 63.2% (down 0.3)
- West Midlands 63.6% (down 0.4)
- East Midlands 64.1% (up 0.5)
- Eastern England 66.5% (no change)
- South west England 66.6% (down 0.3)
- South east England 68.7% (down 0.7)
- London 69.9% (down 0.2)
- All UK 66.3% (down 0.6)
GCSE top grades by area
Here are the rates for students receiving grades A/7 and above:
- England 19.8% (down 0.4)
- Wales 17.9% (down 1.5)
- Northern Ireland 29.5% (up 0.4)
- North east England 16.3% (down 1.0)
- North west England 17.9% (down 0.7)
- Yorkshire and Humber 16.8% (down 0.2)
- West Midlands 17.5% (down 0.2)
- East Midlands 17.5% (no change)
- Eastern England 19.9% (down 0.4)
- South west England 19.5% (down 0.6)
- South east England 22.8% (down 0.6)
- London 24.6% (down 0.2)
- All UK 20.0% (down 0.5)
Note: changes to grading in Maths, English and English literature GCSEs have taken place only in England. In Wales and Northern Ireland those subjects continue with an A* to G grade scale.
More top performers are needed in GCSEs ‘to compete with the world’s best’
Girls feel pressured to portray a perfect life
Girls are feeling under intense pressure to live the perfect online life, according to a survey.
It suggests the rise in popularity of social media is having an impact on young women, with many worried about issues such as how they look in photos, the number of friends or followers they have and how their lives compare to others.
The Girlguiding girls’ attitudes survey also indicates parents are at risk of underestimating the impact that social media can have on their daughters, with girls saying they do not feel their mothers and fathers realise the pressures they face.
In total, more than a third (35 per cent) of the 11 to 21-year-old girls questioned said comparing themselves and their lives to others is one of their biggest online concerns, while the same proportion said that they were worried about threats from strangers.
A further 36 per cent were worried about grooming and 36 per cent also cited how pictures of them might be used by others as one of their biggest fears.
Three in 10 (30 per cent) of the 11 to 16-year-old girls questioned were concerned about how they look in photos, rising to 35 per cent among the 17 to 21-year-olds.
Tens of thousands more teenagers need to score good grades in GCSE English and maths to put the nation on a par with the best performing countries in the world, according to research.
In maths particularly, England has work to do to match the average performance of youngsters in places such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) study found.
The findings, which come in the week that teenagers receive their GCSE results, show that England’s pupils should be aiming to get new grade 5s in English and maths, the EPI said, rather than 4s – which are broadly equivalent to C grades under the traditional grading system.
Researchers used data from international tests in maths and reading and last year’s GCSE results to compare performance between nations.
The study concludes that in maths, students in England need to score around two-thirds of a grade higher on average to match the performance of youngsters in Singapore, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and Japan.
It means that under the traditional A*-G grading system, which is being phased out, an extra 96,000 pupils would have to score the equivalent of at least a B grade, with the number of low-performing pupils (those failing to get a C) falling by 60,000.
In English language, the average grade would also have to increase slightly, with an extra 42,000 youngsters scoring the equivalent of A*-B grades in the subject, in order to match the highest performing countries in native language reading – Singapore, Hong Kong, Canada, Finland and Ireland.
The numbers failing to get a C in English language would need to drop by 42,000.
David Laws, EPI executive chairman and former Lib Dem schools minister. said: ‘This analysis highlights the gulf between education outcomes in England and the performance of the world’s best education nations.
‘In certain subjects, such as maths, England needs both to significantly raise the number of top performers and almost halve the number of low performers if it is to compete with the world’s best.’
GCSE pass rates in Wales drop after exam reforms
Overall GCSE pass rates in Wales have fallen following the introduction of new Wales-only qualifications and a ‘large influx’ of 15-year-olds sitting their exams at the end of Year 10.
Figures released on Thursday show the number of students achieving A* to G grades is down 1.8 percentage points to 96.9 per cent while the number gaining the top A* to A grades has fallen by 1.5 per cent to 17.9 per cent.
GCSE results for A* to C grades have fallen more sharply by 3.8 per cent to 62.8 per cent compared to 66.6 per cent in 2016.
Exams watchdog Qualifications Wales says changing entry patterns have contributed to the fall.
The number of Year 10 students, aged 15 and younger, who sat their exams this year is up by 57 per cent while more Year 11 students have opted to not to resit exams taken in November again this summer.
Director of regulation at the body, Jo Richards said the changes made it difficult to reliably compare 2017 results with those from previous years.
She said: ‘Given the big shift in entry patterns for these qualifications, with a large influx of Year 10 students sitting their exams early and some Year 11 students having sat their exams in November, it’s not possible to draw reliable conclusions from directly comparing summer 2017 and summer 2016 results.
‘That’s why we have focussed on results for 16-year-olds to make more reliable comparisons.’
Welsh pupils are still being graded A* to G while their English counterparts are receiving numerical grades for some subjects.
However reforms in Wales have meant pupils sat new Welsh-specific exams in English language, Welsh language, English literature, Welsh literature, maths – numeracy and maths.
In those subjects the results for 16-year-olds has either improved or remained stable, Qualifications Wales said.
The statistics released by the body show that:
- In maths, taking the best result from the two new maths qualifications introduced this year, 10.9 per cent of 16-year-olds got an A*, up from 7.5 per cent last year. Meanwhile the number getting A* to G fell from 65.5 per cent to 63.8 per cent
- In English language, the number scoring the highest grade – A* – was up slightly by 0.4 percentage points to 3.2 per cent while the number achieving A* to C grades also increased by 0.6 per cent
- In English literature, the numbers scoring the highest grade fell by 0.2 per cent to 4.1 per cent while A* to C was down by 0.4 percentage points to 77.1 per cent
Northern Ireland pupils improve GCSE results
GSCE results in Northern Ireland have continued to improve, with girls widening the performance gap from boys.
The overall percentage of students obtaining the top A* grade rose by 0.7 percentage points to 10 per cent, while those obtaining grades A* to C increased by 0.4 points to 79.5 per cent.
More than 30,000 students sat GCSEs this year.
In English, the percentage of entries achieving A*-C grades increased by 1.8 points to 79.6 per cent.
In maths, A*-C grades rose by 1.5 points to 66.4 per cent of entries, returning to 2015 levels (66.6 per cent) after a dip last year.
A small number of students (around 3 per cent) in Northern Ireland received results in numerical format this year, with 9 being the highest mark and 1 the lowest.
The new scale applies to English literature and maths qualifications offered by a number of English exam boards.
Their performance has been incorporated into the overall performance figures.
In terms of the gender breakdown, boys and girls recorded improved results on last year, but girls’ rate of improvement was more marked.
A total of 83.5 per cent of girls gained a grade C or above – up 0.6 points on last year. Boys improved by 0.1 points to 75.4 per cent.
The gap between female and male performance widened by 0.5 points to stand at 8.1 per cent.
There were fewer GCSE entries this year – down by 3.2 per cent from 161,975 to 156,806.
The Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects grew by 0.5 points, accounting for almost a third (32.2 per cent) of entries.
The increase was driven by growth in subjects such as computing (up 21.4 points) and physics (2.5).
There were decreases in overall entries in biology (down 4.1 points) and chemistry (down 4).
Justin Edwards, chief executive of Northern Ireland’s awarding organisation, the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA), said: ‘I offer my congratulations to the many students receiving their GCSE results today. The results this year reflect the hard work of young people and the support they receive from teachers across Northern Ireland.
‘Whilst we are entering a period of change in the way GCSEs are graded across the UK, it is reassuring to note that Northern Ireland candidates continue to achieve high outcomes in comparison to England and Wales.’
Nervous pupils flood Twitter with jittery memes before they pick up grades
Terrified teenagers are having a meltdown on social media as they anxiously await their GCSE results.
Schoolchildren across the country will be getting their exam marks at around 9.30am today with many finding the wait too much to bare.
Thousands of 16-year-olds are expected to be disappointed as they fail to scoop the top mark in English and maths, following radical reforms to make the qualifications tougher.
Many teens have taken to social media to voice their concerns, sharing hilarious memes.
One girl shared a picture of Kermit the Frog looking miserable while flopped out on a bed and wrote: ‘Remembering all the questions I answered were guesses #GCSEResultsDay2017.’
Another pupil, who was up until the early hours, shared a photo of a woman looking anxious and wrote: ‘It’s almost 3am and I’m still awake… results day got me like…’
One pupil shared a still from Game of Thrones, featuring a character jumping out of a window, with the caption: ‘Results day got me like.’
While another pupil shared a photo of reality star Gemma Collins running around with a miniature pony on Celebrity Big Brother, with the caption: ‘Me running out of school with my results before anyone asks me what I got #ResultsDay2017.’
Fall in numbers of students taking French and German GCSEs
‘No one will lose out’ on Romeo & Juliet blunder
No-one will lose out over an ‘unacceptable’ error about Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet on a GCSE paper, a leading exam body has assured students.
The OCR apologised for the blunder and said it had done ‘all we can to deliver fair results for all our GCSE English literature students’.
An exam paper confused the two warring families – the Capulets and the Montagues – in the famous tragedy about two star-crossed lovers.
Candidates were asked: ‘How does Shakespeare present the ways in which Tybalt’s hatred of the Capulets influences the outcome of the play?’
But Tybalt is Juliet’s cousin and a Capulet, so the question should have referred to his hatred of the Montagues.
The OCR sent individual letters to affected pupils explaining the steps taken to ensure they got deserved grades despite the error on paper 2 of the test.
The numbers of students taking foreign language GCSEs have dropped again this year.
Figures show that languages traditionally taught in secondary schools, such French and German, are continuing to lose popularity with UK teenagers.
There was a 9.9 per cent fall in entries for GCSE French this year, compared to last, with numbers plummeting by more than a quarter (down 26.5 per cent) since 2010.
In German, there has been a 13.2 per cent fall compared to last year, with 43,649 entries for the subject this summer. The numbers taking the language have fallen by more than a third (down 38 per cent), since 2010.
Entries for GCSE Spanish are holding steady at around 91,040, although this is also down slightly (down 1.8 per cent) on last summer. The falls come despite foreign languages being a key part of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc).
The EBacc is a measure used in school performance tables which recognises youngsters who score a C or higher in English, maths, science, history or geography and a language.
Suzanne O’Farrell, curriculum and assessment specialist for the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said schools are reluctant to enter pupils for language GCSEs due to ‘severe grading’ in the subject.
‘We are seeing rises in entries for other EBacc subjects but not for languages.
‘This is down to the fact that languages are more severely graded at GCSE compared to other EBacc subjects.
‘There should be a reasonable expectation that a pupil who is likely to get a B in GCSE history is likely to get a B in GCSE French. That isn’t happening.’
Education and business leaders react on results day
Minister for School Standards Nick Gibb
‘The Government’s new gold-standard GCSEs in English and maths have been benchmarked against the best in the world, raising academic standards for pupils.
‘As we saw with last week’s new A-levels, we are beginning to see our reforms translating into higher standards, improving opportunities and the life chances of millions of young people and helping to fulfil the voracious demand for knowledgeable and skilled young people from Britain’s dynamic and growing economy.’
Verity Davidge, head of education and skills policy at manufacturers’ organisation EEF
‘Such fundamental changes are going to leave employers confused and in a bid to benchmark candidates will undoubtedly rely on their own assessment and entry requirements more than ever before.
‘Manufacturers will hope that those receiving their results today don’t automatically choose the default position of studying A-levels. Two-thirds of manufacturers are offering apprenticeships, which are a credible, earn-while-you-learn route into permanent employment.’
Neil Carberry, from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI)
‘With the arrival of new GCSE gradings in English and maths, it’s important that businesses and schools are given the right support to adjust to the new system.
‘Resources to demystify the gradings are helpful, particularly as employers begin to navigate these changes when recruiting.
‘While exams are important, they are only part of the picture of our education system. Differentiating top performers – as these reforms intend – is helpful but we must not lose sight of what is needed for all pupils and schools to succeed.’
Paul Whiteman, National Association of Headteachers general secretary
‘A better system would be one where schools are able to offer a broad range of subjects in the school day so that pupils’ opportunities aren’t limited and they are properly prepared for adult life.
‘This freedom is being restricted. Fairer means of holding schools to account are now urgently needed.
‘Students will continue to be short-changed and schools will remain between a rock and a hard place until we have a system that recognises that exam data is only part of the picture when judging a pupil’s success or a school’s effectiveness.’
James Westhead, executive director of Teach First
‘Additional figures released today have revealed that of those who received their GCSE results last year, 26,000 are currently not in education, employment or training.
‘We know these teenagers are more likely to be from poorer families, as they will have been constantly faced with hurdles to social mobility that simply don’t exist for those from more advantaged backgrounds.
‘We must do more to challenge this, as in a post-Brexit world we must ensure our country’s workforce is met by home-grown talent.’
Kirsti Lord, from the Association of Colleges
‘English and maths is a challenge for colleges. That’s why the 6% in English pass rate increase for those aged 17 and over is welcome news. It is disappointing that this trend didn’t continue with maths, which has seen a 3% decrease.
‘Colleges will continue to face the English and maths challenge while the Government insists on 16 to 18-year-old students who haven’t achieved a grade C/4 at GCSE resitting the exam.
‘After four years of putting students through GCSE resits, colleges can confirm that the policy does not work and is an obstacle to the ambition that we all share.’
Layla Moran, Liberal Democrats education spokesman
‘Students only get one go at education, so it is not good enough for a whole cohort to be used as guinea pigs in this way. These changes were brought in far too quickly and without adequate investment.
‘This is why the Liberal Democrats have called for the curriculum to be taken out of the hands of politicians and instead managed by an arms length body that works with examining boards and teachers to ensure these major changes are properly resourced and thought through.’