A major slump in the GCSE pass rate is revealed today with the percentage of pupils getting five top grade A* to C passes suffering its biggest fall in the history of the exam.
More than 600,000 teenagers received their results this morning, as figures showed the pass rate had fallen by 1.3 percentage points to 68.1 per cent. A* grade passes were also down by 0.5 percentage points to 6.8 per cent.
The proportion of GCSEs awarded at least a C grade has fallen for the second year running, official figures from the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) have revealed.
Exam boards pinned the blame for the slump on the rising numbers of 15-year-olds taking GCSEs early, with figures rising by 39 per cent. Their grades were 10 per cent lower than older pupils.
"What we're trying to say is early entry doesn't benefit the students," said Mark Dawe, chief executive of the OCR exam board. "Results are lower for them.
"These qualifications are designed for 16-year-olds."
Girls continued to out-perform boys, scoring higher results at A* and A*-C across all subjects.
A breakdown revealed English, maths and science results were all down. In English, 63.6 per cent of entries gained a C or higher, down from 64.1 per cent last summer.
This comes amid a rise in the number of younger students taking GCSE English, JCQ said. This summer there were 61,000 more entries for the subject and of these more than two-fifths (41.9 per cent) were from pupils aged 15.
In maths, 57.6 per cent of entries scored an A*-C grade, compared to 58.4 per cent in 2012.
There has been a 7.6 percentage point fall in the proportion of entries awarded a C or higher in GCSE science. The science fall was easiest to predict with physics, chemistry and biology all made harder this year.
The figures also showed a big rise in the number of candidates put in for multiple entries in the same subject as desperate heads tried to secure them a C grade pass in at least one to improve their school's ranking in league table.
However, the bright spot was a major increase in the take up of languages. Entries for French, German and Spanish were up 16.9 per cent largely as a result of the Education Secretary Michael Gove's new English Baccalaureate league table ranking.