GCSE Results Day 2021: Teens count down minutes to getting their marks

‘Sweat literally dripping down my face’: Anxious teens count down the remaining minutes to opening their teacher-assessed GCSE results TODAY

  • Teenagers were sharing GIFs on Twitter overnight as half a million students find out their GCSE grades today
  • Hashtag #GCSEresults2021 was trending last night as hundreds of pupils suffered a sleepless night
  • Teachers set marks, meaning grading could be most generous in history – leading to claims of ‘grade inflation’ 

Nervous teenagers across the UK have been sharing funny GIFs on Twitter overnight as more than half a million students are set to find out their GCSE grades this morning after this summer’s exams were cancelled for the second year in a row due to Covid restrictions. 

The hashtag #GCSEresults2021 was trending last night as thousands of pupils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland suffered a sleepless night – with some predicting they had failed the tests because they had not prepared for them and others expecting a row with their parents later. 

The grades will determine if pupils can get into their chosen sixth form or college, with many hoping for similar success that was seen in the record-breaking A-level results this week.

Teachers have decided the marks, which could lead to a possible surge in top grades and could make the job of admissions teams at colleges and sixth forms more difficult. Such an outcome would likely fuel accusations of ‘grade inflation’ and the qualifications being devalued. 

Traditional A*-G grades have been scrapped and replaced with a 9-1 system amid reforms, with 9 the highest result and a 4 broadly equivalent to a C grade, while a 7 is broadly equivalent to an A. Students receiving GCSE results in England will get numerical grades for all their subjects as all courses have moved over to the grading system.

The proportion of GCSE entries awarded top grades rose to a record high last year after grades were allowed to be based on teachers’ assessments, with 26.2 per cent of UK GCSE entries were awarded one of the three top grades, compared to 20.8 per cent in 2019, the last year that exams were pre-Covid. 

Girls also pulled further ahead than boys amid the surge in top grades awarded last summer, with the gap between boys and girls achieving at least a 7 increasing from 6.5 percentage points in 2019 to eight percentage points in 2020.  

The cancellation of the summer exams for a second year in a row has prompted some education leaders and politicians to call on ministers to consider reforming GCSEs in the post-Covid years. 

Addressing concerns about possible grade inflation, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: ‘Grades have been arrived at in a completely unique way, so it would not be sensible to compare this year’s results with any other, and any talk of ‘grade inflation’ is unhelpful to students.’

Gavin Williamson, who could be sacked by Boris Johnson in the next cabinet reshuffle after presiding over mass grade inflation, said: ‘Students should feel proud of their achievements and will now be looking forward to taking their next steps. 

‘I am also hugely grateful to teachers and school leaders for their hard work to ensure students get the grades they deserve and need to progress to the next stage of their lives. There have never been so many great options available for young people, whether that’s going on to study A-levels, our pioneering T Levels, starting an apprenticeship or a traineeship.

‘Whatever option young people choose, they can do so with the confidence it will give them the skills and knowledge to get on in life.’ 


Nervous teenagers across the UK have been sharing funny GIFs on Twitter overnight as more than half a million students are set to find out their GCSE grades this morning after this summer’s exams were cancelled for the second year in a row due to Covid restrictions

Almost one in three GCSE entries will get top results today as ministers consider an overhaul to stop grade inflation.

A new top grade of 10 could be introduced to the current 1-9 system in future, to allow the very brightest students to shine.

A record 29 per cent of entries are expected to get at least a 7 – equivalent to the old A – and around 10 per cent will get a 9, which is a high A*.

Ministers will examine changes to grading in the autumn to restore faith in the A-level and GCSE systems.

A government source said a new grade 10 was ‘possible’ and had not been ‘ruled out’.

They added: ‘It’s a discussion that’s yet to be formally framed, but there will be conversations about changing the grading this autumn.’

Education expert Alan Smithers, of the University of Buckingham said: ‘We have a scale that has lost its meaning as we have people continually being given 9. Adding a 10 isn’t a bad idea as it would be a good new label for outstanding performance.’

However, last night Education Secretary Gavin Williamson defended the results, saying they had ‘value’ despite the grade inflation.

He said: ‘Students and their teachers should feel immensely proud of what they have achieved. I want to be clear – this is a moment to celebrate our young people and their futures.’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said pupils collecting their GCSE and BTEC results on Thursday should be proud after they faced learning in ‘exceptional circumstances’.

He tweeted: ‘Good luck to students receiving their GCSE and BTEC results today. Young people across our country are hugely talented and should be proud of all they’ve achieved in such exceptional circumstances. Thank you to their teachers and support staff who have worked so hard this year.’

This year, teachers in England submitted their decisions on pupils’ grades after drawing on a range of evidence, including mock exams, coursework, and in-class assessments using questions by exam boards. 

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), is expecting pressure to be placed on admissions teams at sixth forms colleges and schools if grades are inflated this summer.

He also warned that some young people could be ‘turned away’ from courses if centres cannot increase capacity due to limited space and staff.

Mr Barton added: ‘I think what we’ll see admissions tutors doing on Thursday, and heads of sixth form, is doing their best to make sure that irrespective of grades a young person moves on to what they had wanted to do in terms of their course and the course best suited to them.

‘Because what we don’t want is young people euphoric that they got higher grades than they had hoped for on results day, and then three or four weeks into a new term feeling out of their depth on a course which actually isn’t the appropriate course for them.

‘I think there’ll be quite a lot of work going on behind the scenes, sometimes persuading young people and their parents to stick to what their course of action was.’

If more students achieve higher grades than anticipated – and they want to study A-levels rather than attend an further education (FE) college – it could cause logistical issues for sixth forms, he warned.

Mr Barton said: ‘That will leave some courses struggling to be able to run and some courses oversubscribed and definitely a need for further resources.

‘Or some young people just simply disappointed and turned away because there is no way you could increase capacity because of the accommodation and number of teachers you’ve got.’

Sixth-form colleges are calling for more funding from the Government to cope with another likely surge of pupils who will be able to meet entry requirements.

James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said: ‘Our members certainly saw an increase in the number of students that met the entry criteria last year, and we expect a similar increase this year.

‘The Government has provided some welcome additional capital funding to help sixth forms expand, but that was only for one year, so we would like to see that extended for the longer term in this year’s spending review.’

He added: ‘Additional in-year revenue funding to meet the anticipated surge in demand would also be very welcome, particularly as sixth forms are funded based on the number of students they recruited the previous year.’

It comes as a report by the Centre for Education and Employment Research (CEER) at the University of Buckingham suggests that parents could get behind a campaign to scrap GCSE exams permanently if even more top grades are awarded this year. 

It will be hard for ministers to ‘put the genie back into the bottle’ and go ahead with formal exams after two years of teacher assessments, and more top grades could be awarded to GCSE pupils this summer, the report by Professor Alan Smithers said. 

He added: ‘Plentiful top grades make pupils and parents happy, but they are less helpful for those using the grades for admission to the next stage of education or recruitment to employment. 

‘With another bumper crop of top GCSE grades, the future of exams at age 16 is likely to come under threat. There is already a pressure group to ditch them and if parents get a liking for plentiful top grades they may become involved.’ 

On Tuesday, the proportion of A-level entries awarded top grades reached an all-time high after exams were cancelled, with 44.8 per cent achieving an A or above.

Prof Smithers has suggested that teachers have ‘put more emphasis on rewarding’ students for their efforts, ‘rather than on the information the qualifications carry into future life.’

‘Schools and teachers do not like GCSE exams because they are judged on their pupils’ results in league tables and inspectors’ reports. With teacher assessment, they are in control,’ he added.

‘Independent schools do not like GCSE exams either because, with the great majority of their pupils staying on until 18, they interrupt the smooth progression to A-level.

‘Many educationists do not want exams at age 16 because they believe they distort the curriculum, are harmful to adolescent well-being, and are biased against the disadvantaged. It’ll be quite a task for the Government to put the genie back into the bottle.’ 

Thousands of terrified teenagers are waiting in anticipation for their teacher-assessed grades, which were reintroduced in January after exams were cancelled across the UK owing to the Covid-19 pandemic

Several critics pointed to the ‘grade inflation’ seen across the country, where a furious row erupted as the bridge between private and state pupils grew further yet again. Above: Two delighted students in Belfast celebrate receiving their A-level results

Sir Keir called on the Government to do more to address lost learning during the pandemic, with Labour estimating that more than half a million Year 11 students receiving their GCSE results will leave secondary school without receiving catch-up support.

On a visit to a school in Swindon to meet students receiving their GCSE results, the Labour leader is expected to say the current plans to catch up on lost learning ‘risk holding back a generation of kids’.

Sir Kevan Collins, the former education catch-up commissioner, quit his role in June over the Government’s proposal of a £1.4billion fund to help children recover missed lessons, describing it as ‘a bit feeble’ – he had proposed a £15billion recovery package.

The Labour Party says that face-to-face teaching lost this year amounts to more than eight weeks per pupil, in addition to an average of 14 weeks last year, with some groups such as pupils on free school meals and those in the north of England being disproportionately affected.

Labour estimates 560,000 year 11 students are leaving secondary school this summer without catch-up support, and says that is set to rise to 1.9 million children by 2024.

The party is calling on the Government to match Labour’s children’s recovery plan, which it says would provide a £15billion package, including small group tutoring, breakfast clubs, mental heath support, more professional development for teachers, and extra investment to support the pupils who struggled the most with lockdown learning.

On his visit to a school in Swindon, the Labour leader, Sir Keir, is expected to say: ‘These young people are excited for their futures and every one of them must be allowed to reach their potential.

‘Yet the Conservatives are failing to give children the support they need to catch up on lost learning. They risk holding back a generation of kids. Labour’s Children’s Recovery Plan would give every child the support to learn, play and develop after this pandemic, delivering them a brighter future.

‘It’s time for the Conservatives to get behind Labour’s plan and match our ambition for children’s futures.’

Labour’s shadow education secretary, Kate Green, said the Government’s recovery plan for students is ‘inadequate’ and ‘will leave millions of children without any additional support, showing a shocking lack of ambition their future ambitions and life chances’.

A Government spokesperson said: ‘We have committed to an ambitious and long-term education recovery plan, including an investment to date of over £3billion and a significant expansion of our tutoring programme, to support children and young people to make up for learning lost during the pandemic.’  

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