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English GCSE drop overshadows overall rise in grades

The proportion of pupils getting a grade C or better at GCSE has increased for the first time in three years but there has been a sharp fall in the number of top grades for English.

According to results out today, 68.8% of overall entries achieved A*-C, which is up 0.7 percentage points on last year.

However, the number of A*-C grades for English is down 1.9 percentage points to 61.7%.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) blamed the fall on the removal of the speaking and listening element from the grade, and the likelihood that disadvantaged students struggled to get at least a C because of the shift to end of course exams.

“The changes to GCSEs make it much more difficult to compare data year-on-year,” added Nansi Ellis, ATL’s assistant general secretary for policy.

“The volatility at school level will make judgements about whether schools have improved highly problematic and it would be incredibly unfair to teachers to use year-on-year exam data in their appraisals. If the government insists on continuing to produce school performance tables, it must at least use five-year rolling data instead of a single year’s data to make any valid school level judgements.

“We remain worried that many students will be disadvantaged by the move from modular GCSEs to an exam at the end of two years which will not allow them to show what they can achieve.”

Natalie Thornhill

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