Pupils gain record passes in top three GCSE grades

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The Independent Online
CANDIDATES have achieved a record number of passes in the top three grades at GCSE, but the rapid rise in standards of the last five years is slowing.

Figures published today show that the proportion of entries awarded grades A-C, the equivalent of the old O-level, has risen by 0.7 per cent, compared with 1.1 per cent last year. The previous year's figure was 2.3 per cent.

There has been an 11 per cent increase in the entries getting A-C grades since GCSE was introduced in 1988. The figure then was 42.5 per cent compared with 53.1 per cent. The overall pass rate (grades A to G) was up slightly again this year, by 0.3 per cent, after falling by 0.4 per cent last year. Nearly 3 per cent of entries gained a starred A grade, introduced this year. The percentage awarded starred A or A was up 0.5 per cent to 13.2. It has more than doubled since the last year of O-level.

Maths entries were up by nearly 10 per cent despite a report from school inspectors last week saying that pupils were being put off maths by poor teaching.

Science entries overall were up by 18 per cent though those for individual sciences, physics, chemistry and biology fell by between 16 and 17 per cent.

The exam boards said the increases in maths and science reflected the introduction of the national curriculum: English, maths and science were all compulsory for the first time this year.

Gillian Shephard, the Secretary of State for Education, warmly welcomed the results and congratulated pupils and teachers. She said: 'I am particularly encouraged to see that achievement has been broadly maintained in science and maths GCSEs given the significant increases in the numbers taking the exams as a result of the national curriculum. I hope that will encourage more pupils to opt for A-level study of science and maths.'

John Edmundson, secretary of the Joint Council for the GCSE, said: 'We were very pleased at the way in which candidates who had previously done 100 per cent coursework responded to the stimulus of the examination.'

He said there did appear to be a levelling off in the pass rate but there was a bigger increase in the percentage of passes at starred A or grade A this year than there had been between 1992 and 1993.

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