GCSE exam results: HMC reaction

Regarding the relative performance of state and independent schools in this year’s GCSE exams, HMC General Secretary Dr William Richardson said:

“Everyone agrees that it takes at least three years for any solid pattern to emerge from results in new exams. This is because the new content and the old are not comparable and teaching in every school has to be adjusted.

“Consistently excellent results show independent schools have an unbeatable mix of great teaching, character education and added value to pupils. Any group of schools in which two thirds of pupils gain the top grades should be very proud.

“At the same time, improved results across state schools is also very welcome. A small but important part of this stems directly from the increased sharing of independent school staff who possess scarce subject expertise with our state school partners.”

Reacting to the fact that 20.5% of GCSE entries achieved a grade 9 - more than four times the national figure- Ed Elliott, Head of The Perse School and Chair of HMC’s Exams Task Group said:

“There is no single ingredient for a grade 9, but historically independent schools have developed a winning formula that stretches all pupils and allows the brightest to achieve the best.

“This includes highly qualified staff teaching in ways that maximise each child’s achievement, extra curricular and character education, a culture of high aspirations and positive peer groups in which it is cool to work hard and succeed.”

Mr Elliott also commented on the need for caution in focusing too much on grade 9s:

“Despite independent school pupils doing so well at the top grade, we would advise universities to avoid relying too heavily on 9s.

“The division of the old A* into two grades of 8 and 9 means GCSE may struggle to differentiate reliably at that top end. This will be particularly true in subjects with no simple right and wrong answers. It will take at least 3 years to be confident that the new GCSE grading is consistently accurate.

“It is also important not to judge 18 year olds for university entry by how they were at 16 when they sat GCSEs. Much can change in two years.”