GCSE students have achieved a record-breaking set of results, with a surge in the number of top marks handed to them after exams were cancelled due to coronavirus.
Just over a quarter of pupils (25.9%) were awarded grade 7 or higher, equivalent to an A or A* under the old system – up from 20.7% last summer.
Pass rates are also up across the board – with the amount of students getting grade 4 or above rising by 13% to 76% year-on-year.
And the number of those achieving the highest available mark – a grade 9 – surged by 40%.
Every single subject saw the numbers awarded a grade seven grow – with the biggest spikes recorded in engineering, economics and the performing arts.
The smallest increases were in science double award, maths and English.
Half a million BTEC students who were expecting to get their grades on Thursday were told last night they will not be ready in time and may have to wait another week to receive them.
The whole results system has been dogged by confusion given the four UK governments initially relied on an algorithm to moderate the marks handed out by teachers to try and stop massive grade inflation.
But one by one, Scotland, then Northern Ireland, Wales and finally England decided to scrap the adjusted results and give students their so-called “centre assessed grades”.
Over 600,000 pupils are receiving their GCSE marks today, as they consider their next options including A-levels, apprenticeships or the new T-levels beginning this autumn.
There were scenes of joy in many schools as students celebrated the anxiety finally being over in a difficult year for schools given exams and most teaching were scrapped due to COVID-19.
In Wales, the number of A and A* grades has risen to 25.9% – up from 18.4% – and the amount of people getting above a C rose to 74.5% from 62.8%.
And in Northern Ireland, 37.1% of students got an A or A*, up by by 5.7% compared to last year, with the proportion of those given above a C standing at 89.4% – up 7.6%.
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted congratulations from his holiday in Scotland, saying: “I know the last few months have been tough and this isn’t how you imagined you would be finishing year 11, but you can be proud of how you helped to keep the virus under control.
“You have literally saved lives through staying at home and keeping distance from others. Thank you for protecting yourselves, your families and your communities this year.”
Earlier, schools minister Nick Gibb apologised to students caught up in the chaos of results changes.
“I want to say to those young people how sorry I am for the anxiety, the pain and the uncertainty that has been caused by what happened to the grading system,” he told Sky News.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson had faced calls to resign but is still in his post – though the government has refused to comment on a report he offered to quit but had it turned down by Downing Street.
Analysis: Pupils feeling relieved but frustrated
By Laura Bundock, Sky correspondent
In any other year there would be celebrations for a record-breaking set of GCSE results.
Pass rates are up across the board, as are the number of students awarded grade 7 or higher.
Take a look at maths – two thirds of pupils passed their GCSE this year, that’s up 11% on the previous year.
And there’s been a 40% increase in the number of grade 9’s awarded. That’s the very top mark.
But of course this has been no ordinary year, these are grades for exams that weren’t sat.
Results instead – the product of a computer algorithm – increased if teacher predictions were higher.
For pupils there is a sense of relief but also frustration, given they’ve had to watch the fiasco of A-levels unfold before their results were finally sorted.
And for BTec students that frustration and confusion could continue for many days.
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