GCSE students face record number of exam retakes as return to tougher grading slammed as ‘too harsh' on pupils

24 August 2023, 08:02 | Updated: 24 August 2023, 08:09

GCSE students are expected to face disappointment today.
GCSE students are expected to face disappointment today. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

GCSE students are expected to face a record increase of retakes when results are released today amid the return of tougher grading.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Pupils are said to face disappointment today as a record rise in GCSE retakes is set to hit students.

Some 75,000 students are predicted to find out they have failed their English and Maths as the number of grades below the pass threshold is anticipated to soar.

Professor Alan Smithers, the University of Buckingham's director of education estimated some 325,000 grade will fall below the marks required to pass.

The number of students achieving top marks - those with grades of 7 and above - is also expected to take a hit.

Under England’s 9-1 grading system, a 9 is the highest grade, with a 7 being broadly equivalent to an A, and a 4 to a C.

Northern Ireland and Wales still use the A*-G grading system.

Professor Smithers said the fall in top grades is part of an effort to bring an end to pandemic grade inflation, as pre-pandemic marking makes a return.

Those who receive a grade 3 or lower in Maths of English must retake the exam until they achieve at least a grade 4.

Read more: GCSE pupils told to brace for ‘shock’ as 300,000 fewer top grades expected amid return to pre-pandemic grading

Read more: A-levels get tough: Results worst in four years as Ucas website crashes amid scramble for university places

GCSE results are expected to see a fall in the number of top grades.
GCSE results are expected to see a fall in the number of top grades. Picture: Alamy

Professor Smithers said: “In order to continue at school or college they will have to be sat again.

“Most will fail again. They are caught up in a bad policy which confounds basic fluency in words and numbers with what is needed for high-level study. 'The government should urgently rethink its policy.”

But education academic professor Mary Richardson has suggested the return to pre-pandemic grading was too soon, as she argued the goals for the current academic year are “too harsh”.

More than 625,000 are set to receive their GCSE results this morning, and are apart of the same year group that has gone through school during Covid and teacher strikes this year.

Lee Elliot Major, professor of social mobility at Exeter University, said: “It’s a particularly tough time for this year’s GCSE students. They face harsher grade boundaries after experiencing so much disruption during the pandemic and now must brace themselves for a more intense competition for sixth-form and future university places due to the booming numbers of pupils in the population.

“All this is likely to mean greater divides between under-resourced pupils and their more privileged peers manifested in bigger national and regional inequalities.”

Education secretary Gillian Keegan said: “This cohort has shown tremendous resilience in recent years and should be proud of all the work they’ve done to reach this milestone. Grading is returning to normal, which means a pupil who would have achieved a grade 4 before the pandemic is just as likely to achieve that this year. Students now have more options to choose from than ever before.”

There could be a record number of students forced to retake Maths and English.
There could be a record number of students forced to retake Maths and English. Picture: Getty

The percentage of Year 11 students who have missed at least 10 percent of lessons in the 2022/2023 academic year to May was around double the pre-pandemic rate, according to analysis by FFT Education Datalab.

GCSE grades for this year are expected to fall in line with those from 2019, which would mean around 300,000 fewer top grades.

During the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, teacher-assessed grades resulted in an increase in top grades.

It comes after A-level students were hit by a similar fall in top grades last week, in what was described as a “bruising” result for the year group.

The overall pass rate - A-levels receiving A* to E - fell to 97.3%, down slightly from 98.4% in 2022 and 97.6% in 2019. That is the lowest rate since 97.2% in 2008.

The fall in GCSE grades is expected to hit pupils in England disproportionately, as Wales and Northern Ireland exam regulators have said they will not return to pre-pandemic grading until next year.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “This year, GCSE grading is largely returning to normal in line with plans set out by Ofqual almost two years ago, to ensure qualifications maintain their value and students get the opportunities they deserve.

“For students collecting their results, those opportunities will be greater than ever before thanks to our brand new T-levels, alongside A-levels and other vocational and technical qualifications.

“We will also continue to support pupils through initiatives like the National Tutoring Programme, which is benefiting pupils most in need of support, including those in exam cohorts.”

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

An independent review recommended teachers and nurses get 5.5% pay rises

'There's also a cost to no deal': Treasury minister hints at above-inflation pay rise for public sector workers

Yvette Cooper vows to crackdown on illegal immigration

Beauty salons and car washes to be targeted in illegal immigration blitz as Home Secretary redeploys Rwanda scheme staff

Sarah Justine Packwood, 54, and her husband, Brett Clibbery, 70.

Mystery as Brit woman and husband attempting to cross Atlantic found dead in lifeboat one month after going missing

Exclusive
Five days of big names: LBC announces guest host week

Five days of big names: LBC announces guest host week

Rachel Reeves

Rachel Reeves vows 'big bang' for pensions as government launches review in bid to boost investment and savings

Amanda Abbington has claimed Giovanni Pernice was 'cruel and abusive'.

Strictly's Amanda Abbington breaks silence over 'cruel' Giovanni Pernice - as first female pro under fire

Donald Trump spoke at a rally for the first time since he was shot in the ear

Donald Trump says he ‘took a bullet for democracy’ at first rally since assassination attempt

A burnt out car in the Leeds suburb of Harehills, after vehicles were set on fire and a police car was overturned as residents were warned to stay home following an outbreak of disorder on Thursday evening. Picture date: Friday July 19, 2024.

Man charged with arson after bus set on fire in Leeds riots over children allegedly removed from local family

Craig Revel Horwood has said the recent allegations have come as a 'shock' to him

Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood breaks silence after 'shock' of dancing show's abuse allegations

A series of Israeli strikes have been launched against the Houthi-controlled port city of Hodeidah in Yemen

Israel launches series of air strikes on Houthi-controlled city in Yemen day after group claim deadly attack on Tel Aviv

Jay Slater and his mum, Debbie Duncan

Jay Slater's GoFundMe page hits £70k after teen's mum appeals for funeral donations

Holidaymakers have been left stranded during global IT outage

'We're not being given any information': Furious holidaymaker stranded in Rhodes tells of travel hell after IT outage

A burnt out car in the Leeds suburb of Harehills, after vehicles were set on fire and a police car was overturned as residents were warned to stay home following an outbreak of disorder on Thursday evening. Picture date: Friday July 19, 2024.

Further unrest in Leeds as hundreds take to streets to 'demand return of children' allegedly removed from local family

NHS England has warned of "continued disruption" to GP services into next week.

NHS warns of GP disruption after global IT outage as trains, planes and roads remain in chaos leaving Brits stranded

Planes, trains and roads have been hit by travel chaos following Friday's IT outage.

Holiday hell: Trains, planes and roads in chaos after global IT outage - with thousands of Brits stranded abroad

Graham Gomm

Prisoner who escaped custody at HMP Wormwood Scrubs during hospital trip is arrested following manhunt