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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 August, 2003, 23:02 GMT 00:02 UK
More opt for work-related exams
One of the most striking features of the exam results released on Thursday is the rise in popularity of vocational qualifications.

Entries for the foundation GNVQs were up by 17.5% on last year, to 17,133.

Entries for the intermediate qualification went up no less than 42%, to 94,017.

school science lab

In school league tables, part ones are the equivalent of two, lower-grade GCSEs while the full awards count as four, higher-grade GCSEs.

So someone achieving a pass in the subject needs only one other GCSE at grades A* to C to fall within the "five good GCSEs" that form the basis of ministerial targets.

The biggest increases were in information technology. Full award entries doubled to 45,612 and the pass rate was up from 67.7% to 70.9%.

The qualification has been pioneered by the highly successful Thomas Telford city technology college in Shropshire, which sells its online course in the subject to other schools.

Phasing out

By contrast, the numbers taking information technology GCSE fell from 116,033 to 92,054.

Yet the GNVQ failure rate remains high compared with GCSEs. Almost a third of those taking intermediate part ones failed them.

Vocational GCSEs will replace Part One GNVQs from next year.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority says the full Foundation and Intermediate qualifications are also being withdrawn, but no earlier than September 2006.

The intention is that they will be succeeded by a range of qualifications, about which consultations are continuing.

Maths concern

Among the GCSEs, maths remains the subject with the largest entry: up a little this year to 712,830.

But at a time when there is already concern about the numbers going on to take the subject at A-level and beyond, and to qualify as teachers, performance fell across the board.

The pass rate was down from 96.4% to 95.8%. The proportion getting at least a grade C fell from 51.3% to 50.2%, and the proportion of entries awarded an A* was down from 3.6% to 3.2%.

This picture is reversed for religious studies, with performance generally higher and the number of entries up by 7.9% to 132,304, making it the 10th most popular subject.

Scientists do well

The double award is again the most popular form of science. Entries were up a little but the pass rate fell a little.

Separate sciences fared well this year - biology entries up 4%, for example. Generally performance was at the higher end of the spectrum.

Economics was out of favour, with entries down almost a fifth to 4,139. The pass rate remained about the same, at 96.7%.

In contrast, classical civilisation enjoyed something of a boom, with entries up more than 10% to 4,447 - of which almost one in 10 achieved the top A* grade.

But its Latin cousin garnered even greater laurels: a third of the entries were awarded A*. And Greek produced a stellar 55.7% of A* grades while almost all of the 1,029 entries managed at least a grade C.

Still to come

Thursday is the day students get their results, but the statistics released at this time are about exam entries. They say nothing about candidates - how many there were or how they fared.

The individual performances, collated into school-by-school statistics - from which the performance tables are compiled - are published usually towards the end of the year.

At the same time, final overall statistics are produced, which are typically 0.1 point higher or lower than these August provisional figures.

Figures from the Northern Ireland board, CCEA, were released separately on Tuesday. It accounts for some 60% of the exam entries in the province.

The table below shows the top 12 most popular subjects at GCSE: number of entries, proportion of the total this year and last, and the change if any. Science double award entries have been counted only once.

Subject Entry 2003 2002 +/-
Mathematics 712,830 12.4 12.5 -0.1
English 688,438 12.0 11.8 +0.2
English Literature 560,795 9.8 9.6 +0.2
Science: Double Award 518,575 9.0 9.0 =
Design and Technology 439,617 7.7 7.7 =
French 331,089 5.8 6.0 -0.2
Geography 232,830 4.1 4.2 -0.2
History 218,565 3.8 3.8 =
Art 210,366 3.7 3.6 +0.1
Religious Studies 132,304 2.3 2.2 +0.1
German 125,663 2.2 2.2 =
Business Studies 125,605 2.2 1.8 +0.4
Source: Joint Council for General Qualifications


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