Education Secretary Gavin Williamson says there’s never been a better time to go into post-16 study, as hundreds of thousands collect their GCSE results today (Thursday 22 August).
Of the 5.2 million GCSE entries this year, provisional data suggests 4.2 million were for EBacc subjects – up almost 4% on the previous academic year and including rises in entries to Spanish (10%) and French (4%).
The increase in EBacc and modern foreign language entries sits alongside a 3% increase in entries to GCSE arts subjects. The increase includes rises in art and design subjects and performing and expressive arts – showing that a focus on core academic subjects and pupils receiving a cultural, well-rounded education go hand in hand.
More than 500,000 pupils in England are getting their GCSE results today.
Statistics published today show:
- Entries to EBacc subjects have risen by 3.7%, to 3.7 million;
- Rise sits alongside a 3.2% increase to arts subjects;
- Foreign language entries are also up, by 3.7%, driven by rises in Spanish and French;
- Largest increases in EBacc subjects are in Spanish and computing, up 8.1% and 7.6% respectively, with entries to the latter rising for the sixth consecutive year;
- More than a fifth of all entries achieved grade 7 or above, while over two thirds achieved grade 4 or above. Both are up 0.4% on last year;
- Geography and history entries at highest point since 2010, up 3.7% and 7% on last year;
- Attainment gap between boys and girls narrows, but girls continue to outperform their counterparts by 8.8% at grade 4 and above;
- 837 pupils achieve straight 9s;
- Entries to English language, literature and maths also rise, by 3.6%, 3% and 4% respectively, and remain the three subjects with the highest entries.
Williamson said the rise in the quality of apprenticeships and A levels means young people can be full of confidence as they look to the future, and move into sixth forms and further education colleges.
Thousands of the pupils getting their results today will go on to do an apprenticeship, offering students high-quality training and a wide range of career options. Apprenticeships now offer more off-the-job training than in previous years and are supported by some of the country’s leading employers, including Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Mail and Berkeley Group.
Many others will go on to do A levels, following in the footsteps of almost 250,000 pupils who collected their results last week. Data published alongside last week’s results showed 26.2% lift in the number of pupils taking STEM subjects at A level, compared with 2010.
There were an estimated 5.2 million GCSE entries this summer – up 50,000 on the previous year. This year also sees the continuation of GCSE reforms, including exams being graded at 9 to 1 and designed to be more rigorous and better prepare young people for further study and the world of work.
Provisional data shows entries to EBacc subjects have risen, overall entries to arts subjects also set to go up with further rises in entries to French and Spanish expected.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
“Today is a proud day for students, teachers and parents up and down the country, and I wish them all the very best for their results.
“It should also be an exciting day. It’s a day that marks the culmination of years of hard work and opens doors that can create life-changing opportunities.
“The work this Government has done to drive up standards means there has never been a better time to go onto further study. We will continue to focus on discipline, outcomes and standards, so whatever path they choose, young people will get a better and better education so they can be full of confidence about their future.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
"Huge congratulations to everyone receiving their GCSE results today.
"I’m delighted to see an increase in those studying EBacc subjects – including science, computing and foreign languages – as well as creative studies, meaning pupils are getting the rigorous yet well-rounded education they need.
"As I said last week, my government will do all we can to increase funding for education, and to give schools the powers they need to deal with bad behaviour and bullying so pupils continue to learn effectively."
John Yarham, Deputy CEO, The Careers & Enterprise Company, said:
"More than half a million 16-year-olds – and their nervous families – will today find out their GSCE results. Whatever happens, they should all be proud of the hard work they’ve put in throughout the year to get to this point. But what next for these young people? Off to study A-levels and then university, right? Well actually, probably not.
"Young people have perhaps more choice and more options than ever before when it comes to post-16 options. And the good news is that thanks to the hard work of schools and colleges, they also have more support to make those choices, with careers education improving across the country."
Simon Morris, Education Programme Lead, Adobe EMEA said:
“Despite this year’s A-level results revealing a decline in popularity for creative subjects in schools and colleges, it is positive that the level of participation and interest in Art and other creative subjects at GCSE is on the rise.
“As AI and automation technologies transform the workplace, the demand for creative skills that can’t be replaced by machines or algorithms is set to surge across all industries and schools have a responsibility to arm their students with the skills they need to succeed.
“For too long arts and creative subjects have been characterised as softer subjects without a clear career-path into the workplace. It’s time to recognise the true value of creative skills to the next generation workforce and prescribe the same value to creative subjects as we do to the so-called ‘core subjects’.”
Kirstie Donnelly MBE, Managing Director at City & Guilds Group, said:
“This GCSE Results Day, we need to ensure that pupils, parents and teachers are aware of the variety of routes available to enter further education and employment. Whilst the traditional academic path through A Levels and onto university is right for many, it certainly shouldn’t be seen as the only viable option. For instance, students can complete apprenticeships in almost every industry now and at every level up to degree giving them a great route into employment without the debt that accompanies university. However, there is still not enough awareness of them in schools.
“Next September we’ll see the roll out of T Levels across schools in the UK, and although this will help to bring technical training into the spotlight, it will be ineffective unless the country’s young people are aware of the full range of options open to them after finishing GCSEs. At a time when the UK is plagued with growing skills gaps and we are facing an uncertain future, it’s never been more critical to ensure that school leavers have equal access to the many varied and exciting routes into the workplace.”
Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive Mark Dawe said:
"Congratulations to those who have worked hard to achieve passes in their GCSEs. There will unfortunately be other young people who have still made a real effort but have been unable to get a pass. In the case of English and maths, we believe that young people should be studying these key subjects up to the age of 19, but the option of doing it through applied Functional Skills should be open to them.
"The opportunity is open by doing an apprenticeship but the teaching of the now strengthened Functional Skills is funded at half the classroom rate which lets down the apprentice and the employer who really want to see progress. The excuses for doing something about the abject funding have run out, so the government should now be supporting young people properly to attain the numeracy and literacy needed to thrive in the workplace."
Tom Bewick, Chief Executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB), said:
“The young people picking up their GCSE results today have really earned them. Thanks to some great teaching and learning in our secondary schools and FE colleges, these students are able to gain a quality benchmark qualification.
“As someone who failed at school initially (getting the equivalent of just one GCSE), I always spare a thought on days like these for those who have not perhaps got the results they had hoped for. My advice to them is simply this: success does not run in a straight line. And it certainly should not be defined by a single set of examination results.
“There are many Level 2 and Level 3 options out there, including some great vocational options and apprenticeships, offered by FAB’s members. It is also worth remembering that some of the UK’s most well known entrepreneurs, artists and professional athletes, did not do particularly well in an academic environment. But they found success pursuing other passions, which are not necessarily about how well you perform at sitting national exams. The point is to discover what really makes you happy, then relentlessly pursue your own dreams.”
Dr Fiona Aldridge, Director for Policy and Research, Learning and Work Institute, said:
“Congratulations to everyone receiving their GCSE results today. They are testament to the hard work put in by young people and adult students, and the commitment and support provided by their teachers.
"Learning and Work Institute’s Youth Opportunity Index has shown the extent to which outcomes for young people - both in education and employment - vary significantly across the country.
"Where you get to should not be determined by where you’re from. So Government must ensure that all young people receiving their results today have access to high quality education and training pathways - including A Levels and T Levels, university and apprenticeships - which are well-funded, and focused on preparing them with the skills they’ll need for work and wider life, to ensure that everyone can achieve their potential.”
Susannah Hardyman, Founder and CEO of Action Tutoring, said:
"GCSE Results Day marks the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work and effort by both pupils and teachers. In recent times, schools have faced the added struggle keeping on top of curriculum changes and improving pupil grades against a tough funding climate, something we’ve heard about repeatedly from our partner schools across the country. Yet, this is a time when we really should not be compromising our support for these young people, particularly those who are facing socio-economic disadvantage.
"The recent Education Policy Institute (EPI) Education in England report showed that at secondary level, disadvantaged pupils are 18.1 months behind their peers by the time they finish in formal education. In fact, the EPI report suggests if this pace continues, it will take 560 years before disadvantaged pupils and their peers are reaching similar outcomes – a staggering and deeply troubling figure.
"Sadly, today’s national GCSE results will no doubt be an illustration of what these statistics look like in reality, demonstrating the impact socio-economic disadvantage is having on the lives of thousands of young people across the country. By missing out on the grade 4s, 5s and above, their futures will be a much tougher climb than their peers to access further education, employment or training."
Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE, Chief Executive, WorldSkills UK, said:
"Not too long ago, the members of Team UK were in the same boat as the thousands of students picking up their results today. So, for every 16-year-old today with their GCSEs and thinking about what comes next I’d like to invite them to seriously consider getting involved with our skills competitions.
"Whether you want to be a games designer, a cyber security expert, a plumber, cook, mechanical engineer or landscape gardener there is a competition for you and you could be, in a few years’ time, following in the footsteps of the 37 young people out here in Russia right now.
"Whatever your GCSE results, you can fulfil your potential through an apprenticeship or a technical skills qualification – and you have the unique opportunity to represent your country with us at the same time."
David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said:
“Congratulations to all the students who have been successful in their exams and a huge thank you to teachers supporting students through their English and maths resits.
"Nearly 36,000 16 to 18-year-old resit students have improved their GCSE English performance to grade 4 or above this year and nearly 25,000 have achieved this improvement in GCSE maths. In addition over 10,000 adults have achieved a grade 4 or above in English and 11,000 in maths. We know how much work goes into preparing students for resits and the pressure it puts on students and colleges alike.
"All of those successes must not hide the fact that the policy needs a major overhaul. Once again, around a third of 16 year olds have not achieved the required grade 4 in English and in maths after 5 years of secondary schooling. Many will be excited to enrol in their local college but will be dismayed and upset that they have to re-sit exams which did not go well for them. Colleges will work their socks off to help as many to achieve as they can, but thousands will fail again – that’s always going to be the case because of the way GCSEs are norm-referenced.
"None of us like to fail, and yet we have a re-sit policy which forces young people to do that more than once. It is unfair and unnecessary. We need a policy which supports those likely to achieve the required grade in GCSE, but which also supports other approaches to boosting the written and spoken skills and numeracy of the thousands of students who want to succeed and not feel like failures.”
Lawrence Barton, Managing Director, GB Training, said:
“In the UK, GCSEs signal an important moment in any young person’s life. They represent the first major fork in the road for students considering their next steps. Traditionally, those with academic ability have been expected to pursue their education first by completing their A-Levels and then university. But this is no longer the case.
"Young people now have a multitude of options many of which are often more suitable than the traditional academic avenue. Apprenticeships are one such route. They blend practical on-the-job learning with a classroom-based education. They can be pursued in an array of different fields from agriculture to accountancy and can be studied at different levels all the way up to university.
"As well as allowing young people to earn while they learn, apprenticeships mean young people can improve their knowledge and understanding without accumulating huge amounts of graduate debt. What’s more, evidence shows apprentices often enjoy greater earnings and employment prospects than many graduates. I would urge young people and their parents to consider the array of options for their next steps at what is undoubtedly an important milestone in their lives.”
James Reed, Chairman of REED, said:
“So you’ve done your GCSEs, what next? A-Levels and then university? Or a different route? My advice, consider apprenticeships, internships and volunteer roles as a way to kick start your career. People who start work early in life do better later on; a job, a better job, a career.”
Angela Rayner MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Education, said:
“A huge congratulations to everyone receiving their GCSE results today. These are the result of years of hard work from students, their families, teachers, and school leaders, and I pay tribute to them.
“But it is deeply concerning that disadvantaged young people are far less likely to get good GCSE grades, creating an inequality that will remain for years to come.
“This government, by cutting school funding for the first time in a generation and creating a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention, is making it harder for young people to succeed, while those going on to further education will once again see the impact of nearly a decade of Conservative cuts to education.
“A Labour government will give every young person the support they need to reach their full potential, during and beyond their GCSEs, by reversing Tory cuts to schools and increasing per pupil funding in real terms, and bringing back Educational Maintenance Allowance for young people in further education.”
Vivek Daga, VP and Country Head UK&I at Cognizant, said:
“Following last week’s A-Level results, GCSE results are now also here. Students have spent months and years preparing, with yet a new challenge ahead – readying for jobs that do not yet exist. A report by Cognizant’s Centre for the Future of Work proposes 21 new jobs (such as Data Detective, Master of Edge Computing or Cyber City Analyst), which will emerge over the next ten years – jobs that will present new options to GCSE students considering how to best prepare for the future.
“While the nature of work is changing due to automation and artificial intelligence, the report points out that jobs are not going away and the future of work for upcoming graduates is far from the bleak. To succeed, one must focus on technology’s benefits.
“The AI revolution will create a huge wave of opportunity for businesses and individuals who are prepared. Digital technologies are transforming businesses but machines will always need humans. The jobs that GCSE or A-Level graduates will be doing will involve working with, and directing, machines, because it is people and their skills that fuel the velocity of innovation, experimentation and creative collaboration across industries.
"Students today should rely not only on those highly sought-after digital capabilities, including STEAM skills, but also the wider business skills and human empathy that set us apart from machines. It is, after all, how we work with and manage others that sets us apart as humans.
“Crucially, this is not just a focus for government and the education sector – it falls on all of us. It is our duty to encourage young people to consider a career in tech, by ‘pulling’ them, through generating interest and confidence, rather than ‘pushing’ them to cover the basics in maths and science. We need to be working with students and graduates every day to spark creativity, critical thinking and collaboration, so that as they move ahead from receiving their results, they are equipped with the skills they need to progress in their professional journeys.”
Lee James, CTO, EMEA at Rackspace, said:
“News that this year’s GCSE results show a rise in overall computing entries – and an even bigger increase in female entries – is incredibly encouraging. The explosion of digital transformation means there’s an increasingly diverse range of career opportunities for those with STEM qualifications.
“Previously, those who studied computing would typically enter into careers as IT technicians but that’s no longer the case. What we’re seeing is that computer science as a traditional subject matter is very theoretical, but it’s now intertwining with everything we do as every job function becomes analytics driven.
“We work with a number of local schools to help students see the possibilities of technology careers. These programmes have a particular focus on taking computing out of the theoretical realm and giving students hands-on experience like building their own cloud environments designed for gaming and social media platforms. Through our work with King’s College School, the institution reported that the number of students choosing GCSE Computer Science doubled.
“This is why it’s so important to engage students in STEM and computing science from an early age, showing them how technology increasingly underpins every aspect of our lives and the breadth of career opportunities available.”
Andrew Harding, Chief Executive — Management Accounting, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, said:
“Today is a great day for all pupils who have achieved the results they hoped for. But, we can’t ignore the reality that our current education system is failing to fully prepare students for the world of work. Our research shows that 36% of workers don’t feel they have all the skills they need to do their jobs effectively in the next five years.
"This figure will only increase if we don’t change our approach to learning new skills and competencies. In the past, we largely dedicated ourselves to passing exams and forged a career based on those results. Now, we must recognise the value in non-traditional routes like Apprenticeships, which offer a real opportunity to fix the UK’s productivity problem. As, by design, they inherently link learning and working which helps students develop a growth mind-set and prepares them for the world of work.”
Dominic Harvey, Director at CWJobs, said:
“Whilst the year-on-year rise in the number of students taking Computing as an GCSE subject across the UK is very positive, the education system and government must do more to make these subjects appeal to both girls and boys. Much like most STEM subjects, we’re seeing a rise in the number of girls taking Computing; however the majority taking the subject firmly remains boys.
"A great way to increase this is by promoting the diversity of possible future careers subjects such as Computing can lead to, that are outside any redundant stereotypes. Tech skills are used in various industries from sports to agriculture, from cars to movies. Once students can understand where it can take you, Computing’s popularity can only rise.”
Richard Hamer, Education Director, BAE Systems:
“Students getting their results today are preparing to enter a workforce that already looks dramatically different to the one their parents joined. We’ve found that half of young people think they will one day work in a job that doesn’t currently exist, and advances in technology, engineering and science all mean it’s hard to predict where their career will take them in the next 20 years.
My advice to students is to stop worrying about the unknown, and focus on what they can do today to future-proof their career. There are a wide range of skills and subjects available at A-level that will prove invaluable for the jobs of tomorrow, and they’re as varied as graphic design, philosophy, chemical engineering and cybersecurity.
Remember that A-levels aren’t the only route forward. Early careers programmes and apprenticeships are available for today’s GCSE students that equip them with not only the skills required for today’s jobs, but the skills that will allow them to adapt in the future.”
Harvey Wilding, Apprentice at BAE Systems:
“After studying for my GCSEs, I didn’t want to go to college or university, but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do instead which made me very nervous about the future.
Now that I’m an apprentice at BAE Systems, I’m proud to be helping build something with a purpose, and I have the chance to learn something new every time I come into work – something I never imagined I could be doing. I love that I’m learning skills for a very specialised job role while getting paid to learn. I’m confident that my training with the company is future-proofing my career.
I think it’s important that other students know Higher Education and university aren’t the only routes available to a successful career, and no matter what their results are at school, there are so many paths out there that can lead to an interesting and diverse career.”
Nansi Ellis, Assistant General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“Congratulations to all those receiving their GCSE results today. They are a testament to the hard work of students and all those who have supported them, including education professionals.
“It is a major concern, however, that according to NEU members the assessment method of the reformed GCSEs is significantly worse for the mental health of students – with 73% of members saying this. Removing coursework and having most subjects assessed entirely by exams taken at the end of Year 11 makes GCSEs an all-or-nothing, high stakes experience for students, completely unnecessarily, and focuses study on what will be best for passing the exam, rather than on developing a wider skill set.
“To add to this, both the difficulty and size of GCSE content has increased with the reforms. The result is that the majority of schools are feeling forced to start GCSE courses in Year 9, or even earlier, with a view to getting through everything.
“This alone leads to a narrower curriculum for students, however it is made worse by the 30% decline in entries in non-EBacc subjects such as the arts, music, design and technology, PE, RE and social studies since 2016. This decline can be attributed to Government accountability measures such as the EBacc and Progress 8, which force schools to focus on core academic subjects regardless of the interests of students, and to the inadequate funding of schools and colleges imposed by Conservative-led Governments.
“The current system has so many negative side effects that a re-think is sorely needed. As a start, schools should be freed from the straitjackets of Progress 8 and EBacc and empowered to act upon their professional expertise in helping students decide which courses to take.
“Academics, think tanks and political figures from across the sector, such as former Education ministers and the current chair of the Education Select Committee, are joining education professionals in calling for the scrapping of these measures. Besides the narrowing of the curriculum they cause, many have pointed out how they simply do not, and no matter the tinkering will not accurately measure school effectiveness, rendering them unfit for purpose.”
Ms Chris Keates, General Secretary (Acting) of the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, said:
“Congratulations must go to pupils and their teachers for their hard work in achieving yet another impressive set of results.
“The stability of the results year-on-year, despite the overhaul of the grading system and changes to the structure of the qualifications is a testament to the effort that pupils have put in and the dedication of their teachers in supporting their pupils to achieve their best.
“One point of continued concern for the NASUWT is the ongoing sharp decline in the number of GCSE entries in some non E-Bacc subjects such as RE and design and technology.
“This is the inevitable outcome of the pressure on schools to prioritise E-Bacc subjects which has led to time for non-EBacc subjects being reduced in many schools and cuts to staffing and resources in these subjects.
“The NASUWT believes this is undermining young people’s access to a broad and balanced curriculum and their opportunity to pursue a wide range of learning opportunities.”
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:
“The findings of [our recent] survey reflect widespread concern that reformed GCSEs have sacrificed the interests of the most vulnerable students for the supposed benefits of raising the bar for the most able students.
“The government has seen increased rigour as an end in itself without fully considering what it wants the exam system to achieve for all students of all abilities. As a result, we now have a set of GCSEs which are extremely hard to access for students with lower prior attainment. This is incredibly stressful and demoralising for these young people.
“We need a system which allows every young person to finish their schooling with qualifications of which they can be proud. It is absolutely right that we aspire to the highest standards for all our young people but serving up a diet of exams which erodes the confidence of a large proportion of young people is surely not the way to achieve this objective.
“In the immediate future we do need to see if there are ways these qualifications can be tweaked to improve their accessibility to all students and make them less of an ordeal, and in the longer term we simply must review the exam system to find a more humane way in which we can assess the abilities of young people and prepare them for their lives.”
Andrea Bull, Head Next Generation Marketing at Make UK said:
“Long gone are the days when academic pathways such as university were the only options for bright, talented young people. Apprenticeships are now firmly and proudly in the spotlight and manufacturers have plans to increase the number of apprenticeships within their business.
“There are exciting opportunities within our vibrant and innovative sector. From shop floor to top floor, manufacturers are investing in the next generation of innovators, creators and makers through apprenticeships.
“We need to see more young people choosing vocational pathways and more girls pursuing STEM apprenticeships. This will widen the talent pool available to manufacturers who are keeping their doors wide open for their future leaders.”
Stephen Allaker is announced as the new Chair of the Institute’s Legal, Finance and Accounting Route Panel, said:
“With GCSE results day upon us, and A Level results just in, we want to school-leavers to know all about apprenticeships that could allow them to earn as they learn and establish themselves in our high-status professions. These are no longer the preserve of university graduates and I want to see apprenticeships widen access to more people than ever before.
“I have learnt over my own career that most development comes from giving an individual a range of experiences on-the-job. But this stretching and nurturing also needs to be built upon a solid, technical understanding gained through high quality skills training. We can strike that key balance through apprenticeships.”