GCSE results 2017: The 7 most interesting things we have learned

GCSE results are out and there is a lot of noise in the statistics.

Wales and Northern Ireland have not reformed their subjects in the same way as England, so the UK data is weird.

The England all-ages data includes lots more resits of 17-year-olds and some early entries, which also makes things weird.

Then you have the complication of some subjects being graded 9-1 and others being A*-G, and how the two are pegged together in different countries for different ages and so on.

Hence, there is no in-depth statistical analysis for now; these are just the important points you should know when looking at any results or reporting.


1. If your school’s 5-and-above pass rate is MUCH lower than your 4-and-above rate DO NOT WORRY

The national difference in the 5+ pass rate versus the 4+ pass rate is 18.3 per cent.

This matters because schools are going to be judged on the 5-and-above grade rate from now on.

School leaders are used to looking at the A*-C rate, equivalent to the 4+ rate. Many are panicking that the rate of their pupils getting 5 grades and above is so much lower.

You shoud expect your 5-and-above rate to be about 18.3 per cent lower than your A*-C/4-and-above rate. This is normal and is what was expected. (Indeed, we wrote a front page guesstimating this over two years ago!)


2. English literature outcomes have dropped a lot as more kids are taking it

Outcomes dropped by 2.1 percentage for the top grades (7+, equivalent to A/A*). And the C-grade (4) rate also dropped by 2.5 percentage points.

So, proportionately fewer pupils got the best grades. But the exam boards say this is because lots more pupils have been entered, probably due to pressures of Progress 8.

These extra pupils previously attained lower grades, so you would expect more of them to get lower grades at GCSE. This is precisely what has happened, bringing the overall grades down.


3. Maths outcomes are pretty stable…

Stripping out the resitters, about the same number of pupils are getting roughly the same grades.

 …But there are some interesting boundary mark issues

One thing I’m seeing flagged up is the low number of marks needed to get a 4 and 5 grade on the higher-tier Edexcel paper.

Schools which punted on putting their pupils in for the higher paper should therefore not have been disadvantaged.

The exam boards said they have seen very few pupils not getting a grade at all on the higher paper. They suggest this is because schools made “good choices” about which paper to enter.


4. This year’s GCSE cohort, as a group, had lower prior attainment

If you thought you had a bit of a funny year group this time around, you’re not alone. It turns out the year group had lower prior attainment overall.

This has been given as one reason why national results have dipped a bit, though, as we’ve said, the statistics picture is murky on this.


5. There were a lot more 17-year-olds resitting their GCSE maths and English

When you see national headlines on the pass rate, if they are including the six per cent extra 17-year-olds who resat maths and English, this will be one reason why the results look so disastrous.

Colleges now have to provide resits for students who got below a C in their maths and English GCSEs at school as a condition of funding, which is why the numbers are going up.


6. 2,000 children received straight 9s in the reformed GCSEs

51,100 9 grades were awarded in English, English literature and maths. Just 2,000 pupils got 9s in all of them, but this is far more than was predicted – some even thought no one would achieve it!

It is far fewer than the 6,500 pupils who got A* in all their core subjects.

Of these grades, around two thirds went to girls (approximately 30,000).


7. The exam boards did not know much about changes at lower-level grades

We asked. But while we could be told the precise number of 9s, no one really knew how much things at changed at the bottom end. And because we don’t have the data for England’s 16-year-olds we can’t tell you yet either. Harumph.




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