GCSE top grade numbers set to fall
Hundreds of thousands of teenagers are receiving their GCSE results amid predictions that fewer pupils will score decent passes in key subjects such as science and maths.
One expert has also suggested that the overall proportion of entries awarded at least a C grade could drop again this year.
Last summer, the proportion of GCSEs awarded a C grade or above fell for the first time in the exam's history, with 69.4% getting this grade or higher, down 0.4% on 2011. There was also a fall in the proportion of GCSEs awarded the top grades and drops in the percentage of English, maths and science entries achieving passes at A*-C.
Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said it was likely that results will drop again. He claimed that in the past, the pass rate had "gone up year on year because everyone had a vested interest in that happening". But he said this has changed and there is now a "true regulator" - Ofqual - which has said standards should be comparable year on year and this could stop any rise.
Ahead of this year's results there have been warnings of turbulence in the system, including rises in the numbers of pupils sitting maths and English GCSEs multiple times, and in the numbers of youngsters sitting exams earlier. This could have an effect on the overall and individual subject pass rates.
Figures have shown that tens of thousands of pupils took papers for more than one maths GCSE last summer, and that around a quarter of maths entries (23%) this year are for students who are 15 or younger, effectively pupils who are sitting papers earlier than the final year of secondary school.
More pupils are being entered for IGCSEs in maths and English, according to Ofqual figures, while around 15% of students taking maths GCSE last summer - about 90,000 youngsters - also sat at least one paper from a second maths GCSE.
Labour said it believed that for GCSE maths alone, the cost of putting pupils into additional exams last year was estimated to be nearly £11 million. Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said entering pupils several times for the same subject "can't be good for school budgets, standards or learning".
The Department for Education said schools should not be entering students for exams early, and then for resits, or for multiple exams in the same subject, saying it is "not good for pupils".
Teenagers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are due to receive their GCSE results.Ajmol Alom, 16, who died after he was stabbed in Poplar, east London, on August 12, achieved top grades, his school said. The teenager, who went to Langdon Park School in Poplar, achieved eight As in subjects including maths, science, English literature, geography, religious studies and citizenship; and three B grades in English language, humanities and physical education.