Top grade GCSE passes fall for first time in 10 years

The number of students obtaining five top grade GCSE passes including maths and English has fallen for the first time in a decade.

Around 2,400 fewer candidates achieved the landmark this year, according to figures released yesterday, with headteachers pinning the blame on the controversy over the grading of this year's English exam.

The drop of 0.4 per cent to 58.6 per cent was the first recorded fall since 2004/5, when a new method of collecting the figures came into force.

Teachers' leaders said the drop was the most significant in the history of the 24-year-old exam. However, the Department for Education said the drop was down to fewer English entries from private schools – a result of a rise in the enrolment of overseas students opting for English as a second language qualification instead.

It is understood that the number of schools with fewer than 40 per cent of pupils obtaining five A* to C grade passes including maths and English – the Government minimum target – is likely to be the same this year as last.

Meanwhile, a breakdown of A-level results shows fewer sixth-formers scoring three or more A* or A grades in their A-level results this year. The figure was down from 13.1 per cent to 12.5 per cent.