ASCL comment on GCSE and Level 2 VTQ results

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on the publication today of GCSE and Level 2 VTQ results in England.
Congratulations to pupils and teachers on today’s GCSE and vocational qualification results. An enormous amount of hard work has gone into these qualifications in often difficult circumstances and the young people receiving their results today deserve great credit for what they have achieved.

“Grades are lower this year than in the past three years because of a return to normal following the pandemic and are similar to the distribution of grades in 2019. However, we would caution against direct comparisons between this year’s grades and those in 2019 because of the disproportionate impact of the pandemic and subsequent cost-of-living crisis on young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. It is likely that the outcomes for many of these young people will be affected by these factors and this may also impact on the results of schools which serve disadvantaged communities. 

“The government has failed to grasp the gravity of this issue. It did not invest sufficiently in education recovery from the pandemic – causing its own recovery commissioner to resign in protest – and it has failed to address the high level of child poverty in the UK. We are concerned that this will lead to a widening of the attainment gap between rich and poor.

“This is the second year of the return to a full suite of public exams and once again this has meant hundreds of thousands of pupils having to sit a very large number of exams as a result of government reforms to GCSEs which our analysis suggests typically constitutes 22 papers over a length of 33 hours. The main use of GCSE and other Level 2 qualifications is to aid progression to post-16 courses and training, and such a huge weight of assessment should not be necessary for this purpose. Reform is needed to reduce the burden of exams and make greater use of technology in assessing pupils.

“Finally, we wish pupils receiving their results today every success for the future. There are a wide range of courses available in our excellent colleges and sixth forms which will enable them to take their next step.”