GCSE results 2020: Top grades increase, with nearly four in five pupils achieving a pass

The proportion of GCSEs at grade 7 or above given to pupils in England has risen by 5.7 percentage points from last year after the government U-turn to award teacher grades.

Pupils are receiving either their centre assessed grades or standardised grades, whichever is highest, this morning following the U-turn on Monday. 

In 2019, 21.9 per cent of grades given out to 16-year-olds in England were grade 7 or above, equivalent to the old grade A. Statistics published this morning show that this year, 27.6 of these top grades were handed out. 

The proportion of grade 4s or above has risen by 8.9 percentage points, up from 69.9 per cent last year to 78.8 per cent this year – meaning nearly four in five pupils achieved a standard pass.

Grade 5 and above, a strong pass, has risen from 53.5 last year to 61.5 this year.

And the number of grade 1 and above has also risen from 98.5 last year to 99.6 this year. 

Those receiving the top grade of 9 has risen by 1.9 percentage points from 4.7 last year to 6.6 this year.

Among the subjects that have seen the largest rise in grade 7 awards are a host of creative subjects, including performing and expressive arts, music and drama.

These subjects, along with classical subjects, ‘other sciences’, economics and engineering, which also saw increases of over 10 percentage points, are often taught in smaller cohorts. As with A level results, we have already seen that such subjects have benefited from this year’s awarding system.

Harder to explain may be a close to 11 percentage point increase in grade 7 awards for biology.

German also features among those with the greatest gains at grade 7, despite Ofqual’s efforts to “make an adjustment to the grading standards in GCSE French and German, to provide better alignment with GCSE Spanish.”