1. ITV Report

GCSE joy as pass rates rise but is there too much pressure now on pupils?

  • Click below to watch a video report by ITV News Anglia's Rob Setchell..

The proportion of GCSEs awarded top grades has risen for the second year in a row after the biggest exam shake-up for a generation but there are warnings the exams could be putting too much pressure on some pupils.

Thousands of youngsters across the region are getting their results after sitting the Government's tough new GCSE courses.

An emotional day for students and parents alike! Credit: ITV News Anglia

More than one in five (20.8%) UK GCSE entries scored one of the three top grades this year, up from 20.5% last summer.

The proportion receiving the top grades - at least a 7 or an A grade - is the highest since 2015 and marks the second year-on-year rise in a row.

A congratulatory hug from a teacher at Swavesey Village College, in Cambs. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The proportion of entries getting at least a 4 or a C grade is also the highest since 2015.

Tears of joy from some students! Credit: ITV News Anglia
Credit: ITV News Anglia

However a former Suffolk headteacher has warned the exams are damaging the most vulnerable pupils. Geoff Barton, who now heads up the Association of School and College Leaders, said struggling students had been left demoralised by the new tougher courses.

There are concerns the exams are demoralising for lower-achieving pupils.

The government has seen increased rigour as an end in itself without fully considering what it wants the exam system to achieve for all students of all abilities. As a result, we now have a set of GCSEs which are extremely hard to access for students with lower prior attainment. This is incredibly stressful and demoralising for these young people.

We need a system which allows every young person to finish their schooling with qualifications of which they can be proud. It is absolutely right that we aspire to the highest standards for all our young people but serving up a diet of exams which erodes the confidence of a large proportion of young people is surely not the way to achieve this objective.

In the immediate future we do need to see if there are ways these qualifications can be tweaked to improve their accessibility to all students and make them less of an ordeal, and in the longer term we simply must review the exam system to find a more humane way in which we can assess the abilities of young people and prepare them for their lives.

– Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders
All smiles for these girls though! Credit: ITV News Anglia

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the results show pupils are going on to further study and the world of work "with the best possible foundations, focusing on the academic cornerstones of education while also stretching themselves creatively."