The percentage of pupils obtaining the GCSE benchmark of five A* to C passes including maths and English has fallen for the first time, an official breakdown of this summer’s results has revealed.
The rate has dropped from 59.2 per cent last year to 52.2 per cent in 2014 – potentially putting hundreds of schools at risk of being forced into becoming academies with their heads facing the sack because of poor performance.
Yesterday’s analysis is the first time the percentage of pupils reaching the benchmark has dropped since the measure was introduced under the last Labour government.
Ministers were at pains to point out that changes to the exam system – such as stripping out scores of vocational qualifications and reviewing exams to exclude coursework and concentrate on end-of-year tests – accounted for most of the decline.
However, even when account is taken of the effect of the changes, there is a still a one percentage point drop in the figures.