More pupils are expected to fail their GCSEs this year, and top grades are expected to fall as results return to pre-pandemic levels, an education expert has predicted.
There could be 230,000 fewer top grades in the UK compared with 2021, but 230,000 more than in 2019, according to Prof Alan Smithers, director of the centre for education and employment research at the University of Buckingham.
Prof Smithers said the change in this year’s GCSE results was likely similar to what was seen in A-level results last week when grades fell from pandemic highs but remained above 2019.
According to the Department for Education’s (DfE) data, 28.9% of UK GCSE entries were awarded one of the top grades, up by 2.7 percentage points on 2020. In 2019, when exams were last held, only a fifth (20.8%) of entries achieved at least a seven or an A grade.
Prof Smithers said grades were expected to move back to around halfway between those of 2021 and 2019, meaning disappointment for many.
“In 2022, we can reasonably expect to see a drop in top grades, with many more failing to reach the pass level (C/4),” he said. “In England, the biggest percentage fall will be at Grade 9, and many more will fall below Grade 4.
“We can take the A-level results this summer as a guide. The proportion of entries getting AAB or above, which is the typical offer for many university courses, fell from 29.9% last year to 25.6%. That’s still well above the 20.2% in 2019, which means that 74,000 fewer students achieved this level this summer than last. And there were increases in the proportions getting Ds and Es.
“A similar story is likely to unfold with GCSEs this autumn. So, while it is good news that standards have not fallen back to where they were in 2019, many young people who have worked hard and done their best are still likely to be disappointed with their results.”
The DfE has said it is “absolutely committed to ensuring young people get the grades they deserve” and that its approach will “maintain standards and ensure no child loses out”.
A spokesperson said: “This year’s results provide a strong foundation for pupils as they progress to further study or employment. We know how important exams are – which is why we have worked tirelessly to support schools and colleges to ensure every child gets the education they deserve.
“Our world-leading Plan for Jobs will also help those who need extra support to find employment, including through our new £2.5 billion Kickstart Scheme.”
The results come as England’s schools are preparing to reopen for all pupils next week after months of remote learning during the pandemic.
Scotland’s Education Secretary John Swinney has also said he is “confident” that this year’s exam results will be “broadly in line” with previous years, despite the pandemic.
Wales is yet to release its GCSE results, but last week it was announced that A-level students in Wales would receive their results a day early, on Thursday, 19 August. The Welsh Government has said the move would help “alleviate any anxiety and stress” among students.
This year’s GCSE results are due to be released on Thursday.
What do you make of this year’s GCSE results? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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