Record 1 in 4 girls will get A grades in GCSE results

But number of top grades in core subjects has declined since start of decade
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Girls will record a 25 per cent A-grade pass rate in GCSEs for the first time ever, when the results are released this week.

The results, to be published on Thursday, will also show nearly two-thirds of all papers have been awarded an A* to C grade pass, also for the first time. Around 600,000 teenagers are awaiting their GCSE results.

They are set to show that the percentage getting top grade A* to C grade passes – the benchmark by which schools are measured – has risen from 65.7 per cent last year to around 66 per cent this. That will be a more than 50 per cent improvement in two decades, from 42.5 per cent in 1988.

At A* grade, the pass rate is expected to top seven per cent for the first time, again registering a more than 50 per cent improvement since the grade was first introduced in 1994, while the A grade pass rate is likely to go above 21 per cent for the first time.

At present girls lead boys at A grade by 5.6 per cent, with 23.5 per cent compared with 17.9 per cent. While the gap is expected to narrow, girls are set to reach a 25 per cent pass rate this year.

The rise in top grade passes may well fall short of the Government's target of improving the A* to C grade pass rate by two percentage points every year. To a large extent, it has been held back by lower top grade pass rates in English and maths as a result of the two subjects being made compulsory for all pupils earlier in the decade.

The percentage getting a top grade pass in maths is the lowest for any subject at 56.3 per cent, while English is at 62.9 per cent compared with the national figure of 65.7 per cent. Professor Alan Smithers, of the Centre for Education and Employment at the University of Buckingham, said: "Maths has been what has held back the performance of a number of schools."

The Conservatives today publish figures showing the number of pupils gaining a top grade pass in the core subjects of maths, English, science and modern languages has declined since the start of the decade.

In 2001, it was 183,295 (30.4 per cent of pupils sitting the exams). Last year it was 154,743 (23.7 per cent).

Nick Gibb, the Conservatives' schools spokesman, said this was "a terrible indictment of the Government's record".

The drop is largely due to the major decline in the take-up of languages following the Government's decision to make the subject voluntary for 14 to 16-year-olds in 2002. The percentage pass rate in maths and English has actually gone up.

A separate survey by Edge, the independent education foundation which promotes vocational education, published today shows 47 per cent of GCSE candidates express "disinterest" in at least three of the subjects they study.

In addition, 46 per cent admit they revise less in these subjects and 40 per cent say they switch off in class. Three-quarters 973 per cent) believe they have just been taught for the test.

A majority (63 per cent) said they would like more subjects to choose from, with 22 per cent saying they would like to study computer programming, 21 per cent criminology, 18 per cent film and 17 per cent photography. Other popular options were veterinary science, fashion and engineering.

Asked who they would most like to teach them and for what subject, a third said Lord Sugar for maths, 28 per cent picked Ewan McGregor for drama, 27 per cent wanted children's author Jacqueline Wilson for English and 24 per cent would life Formula One star Jenson Button to tutor them in engineering.