Page last updated at 12:22 GMT, Thursday, 16 October 2008 13:22 UK

GCSE attainment has risen again

students celebrate
More than 600,000 students got their results in August

This year's GCSE statistics for England show another slight rise in the proportion of pupils getting five good GCSEs including maths and English.

But less than half - 47.2% - achieved that target, up 0.9 percentage points on last year, while 64.6% achieved any five or more GCSEs or equivalents.

New statistics out this year show the proportion of students getting an A* to C grade in a foreign language was 30%.

In science, 50% of students achieved two or more GCSES at grades A* to C.

The overall attainment of passes in any five GCSEs (grades A* to G) or equivalent is up 0.4 percentage points to 91.3%.

Almost everyone - 98.6% - achieved any passes at GCSE or equivalent, up 0.6 percentage points from 2006-07.

Girls continued to outperform boys in this year's exams, particularly at the higher grades (A*-C), in which 69.3 per cent of girls achieved five or more compared with 60.1% of boys.

Gender gap

The figures, released by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, are the provisional first release of statistics collated from the results which youngsters received at the end of August.

47.2% pupils with five grades A*-C including English and maths
51.9% of girls and 42.8% of boys
Grammar schools: 97.6%
Comprehensives: 47.2%
Academies: 35%
Independent schools: 48.6% (International GCSEs not counted)
Source: DCSF

After further checking they will be published on a school-by-school basis in January in the annual "league tables".

They include, at national level, results from independent schools where on average pupils perform at a higher level than in the state sector - though results have been depressed in recent years by the trend towards International GCSEs in English and/or maths, which are not recognised by the government.

They show the government met its target for pupils achieving any five good GCSEs, set in 2004, which was for 60% of 16-year-olds by 2008. The result on that particular measurement was 64.3%.

Most of the statistics relate however to the performance of pupils at the end of Key Stage 4 of the national curriculum, which gives slightly higher results.

The new target on that basis - which also requires children to have grade C or above in English and maths - is 53% by 2011. Attainment this year was, as headlined, 47.2%.

Girls are still outperforming boys - and the achievement gap between the genders has not changed.

Some 51.9% of girls got five good GCSEs including English and maths, compared with 42.8% of boys - a gap of 9.1 percentage points.

Among mainland local authorities, attainment of the benchmark five good grades with English and maths ranged from an average 67.2% in Sutton, south-west London, to 29.3% in Hull.


The statistics on Level 3 qualifications including A-levels have also been published, showing that the average point score per candidate this year was 733.5, compared with 731.2 last year.

But the proportion of candidates who achieved the equivalent of at least two A-levels was down slightly from last year's 95.2% to 94.6%.

This is typically regarded as the minimum requirement for university entry and does not seem to have affected the numbers going in to higher education this year.

Figures released on Wednesday by the admissions service Ucas showed another strong rise in the numbers of new undergraduates.

At the top end, attainment was unchanged year-on-year, with again 11.9% of A-level candidates getting three or more A grades.

Liberal Democrat spokesman David Laws said of the GCSE results: "It's completely unacceptable that so many children are still not getting a good basic set of qualifications.

"These figures highlight the appalling fact that half of all children in English schools are still failing to get five good GCSEs, including English and maths.

"After 11 years of Labour promises, whatever happened to 'education, education, education'?"

The Conservatives released figures from the Office for National Statistics showing GCSE results at neighbourhood level.

These revealed that in one area of Bradford, just 3% of children achieved the target of five GCSEs including English and maths at grade A*-C in 2007, compared with 100% in one part of Richmond-on-Thames in south-west London.

Shadow children's secretary Michael Gove said: "The scale of inequality is truly shocking. It is a scandal that there are pockets of the country where just a tiny minority of children achieve the basic level of qualifications aged 16."

Around the UK

The department's statistics relate only to England and there is no government publication summarising UK-wide attainment because of the four devolved education systems.

In Wales, figures released at the end of September showed 57% of pupils aged 15 at the start of the 2007-08 academic year achieved the equivalent of five or more GCSEs at grades A*-C, two percentage points higher than in the previous year.

The 2008 statistics for Northern Ireland are not yet available, but pupils in the province typically perform at a far higher rate than in England and Wales.

Scotland has a different qualifications system. At the level broadly equivalent to GCSEs elsewhere in the UK, 35% of pupils achieved five or more awards at Level 5 or better by the end of S4 (age 15-16).

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