Wales’ GCSE A*-C grades improve as schools alerted to greater variation of results

Thursday 22 Aug 2019

As the number of GCSEs sat in Wales this year increased, Qualifications Wales has cautioned that while results nationally have remained stable at A and improved at C and G, there could be greater variation in results at school level. 

This year sees the final seven of the new made in Wales GCSEs tested for the first time, bringing the number of reformed GCSEs introduced since 2015 to 28 

The number of GCSEs sat in Wales this year rose by 8.8% from 271,761 to 295,690 with overall results at a national level stable 

The headline figures show: 

  • The proportion who achieved an A*-A is down by 0.1 percentage points (pp) to 18.4% 
  • The proportion who achieved an A*-C is up by 1.2pp to 62.8% 
  • The proportion who achieved an A*-G is up 0.8pp to 97.2% 
  • The proportion of girls who achieved an A* or A was 22.0% compared with 14.6% of boys. 
  • 67.6% of girls achieved A*-C grades compared with 57.8% of boys. 

The regulator says there are two main reasons for the increase in the number of GCSEs sat this year: changes to school performance measures and an increase in the general population.  

“A rise in the number of entries for Year 11 students is linked to a sharp fall in the number of candidates entered early in Year 10 last year following a change in Welsh Government policy,” said Chief Executive Philip Blaker. 

“The policy shift means that only a pupil’s first result can be used to measure a school’s performance, so schools are less likely to enter pupils early for exams unless the individual has shown exceptional aptitude for the subject. 

“Year 10 entries this year are broadly similar to the level last year, which is encouraging and suggests that entry patterns for GCSEs in Wales are becoming more stable.” 

The other factor for the increase in GCSE entries this year is a rise in the general population, with an estimated 0.7% more 16-year-olds this year than last. 

Mr Blaker said while national results were stable, there could be some variation at school level due to a number of factors.  

“We will publish statistics next month covering the first phase of the new reformed GCSEs. They will show how qualification results vary at a school level in Wales compared with previous years,” he said. “These statistics will not identify individual schools but will help teachers and other interested users see how changes in results vary across all schools in Wales at a qualification level.” 

Qualifications Wales has published an article on its website explaining the factors that can impact on school results from year to year. The article can be read here.