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Thursday, 23 August, 2001, 08:07 GMT 09:07 UK
GCSE grades rise again
Boys are still behind girls at GCSE
A record number of pupils have achieved the top grades at GCSE, as hundreds of thousands of teenagers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland received their exam results on Thursday.

The number of pupils achieving grades A* to C has risen by a half of one point on last year to 57.1%, with an increase of 0.3, to 16.1%, in the numbers achieving the top A* and A grades.

GCSE results
Pass rate: 97.9%
Grades A* to C: 57.1% (up 0.5)
Grades A* to A: 16.1% (up 0.3)
Girls ahead at grades A* to C: 8.9% (down 0.3)
GNVQ intermediate pass rate (worth four GCSEs): 61%

The overall pass rate, at grades A* to G, remains unchanged at 97.9%.

This year saw a slight closing of the gap in achievement between girls and boys, with boys reducing the difference for grades A* to C from last year's 9.2 percentage points to this year's 8.9.

Girls have strongly outperformed boys in exams in recent years and apart from this marginal change at grades A* to C, the convenor the joint exam boards, Paul Sokoloff, concluded that this year's "gender gap is broadly the same".

Click below for complete subject-by-subject tables of all the results at:

The overall lead for girls at grades A* to G remains unchanged at 0.7% and for the top A* and A grades it remains at 5.3 points.

Within the more popular subjects, results were in line with last year - raising suggestions that results might have reached a plateau.

In English language, taken by 667,000 students, the number getting the top A* and A grades had risen slightly from 13.2% to 13.6% - with the overall pass rate slipping marginally from 99% to 98.9%.

Stephen Timms
Stephen Timms says there has been no watering down of standards

In maths, top grades had risen from 10.7% to 11.1% and the overall pass rate was up from 96.1% to 96.3%.

Exam boards, which have announced the results of over six million exams, noted a surge in interest in information technology courses.

This included an increase in students taking intermediate GNVQs in the subject, which are vocational qualifications worth four standard GCSEs.

There has been concern that such weighting could distort school performance tables, but exam boards and the qualifications authorities say that they have no control over how such exam results are presented in league tables.

This means that for pupils to achieve the benchmark of five good GCSEs or the vocational equivalent, they only need one intermediate GNVQ (worth four GCSEs) and one other GCSE.

The pass rate for intermediate GNVQs this year was 61%.

The improvements in results should not be ascribed to any lowering in standards, said the School Standards Minister, Stephen Timms.

"Better grades are a result of pupils working harder and a reflection of the first class support they receive from teachers.

"There is no evidence to suggest that standards are declining and we will continue to monitor them closely to ensure that this remains the case."

The BBC's Andrew Burroughs
"Overall an improvement in boys performance must hearten teachers"
Margaret Murray, the CBI's head of learning
"We need to raise our expectations and stretch children"
Exam results in the UK



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Row over new exams


See also:

21 Aug 01 | Education
21 Aug 01 | N Ireland
17 May 01 | Education
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