Sep 6, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

The results of England’s new GCSE exams are in, and the news is good for boys, who saw “across-the-board improvements,” according to a report from The Guardian. How did girls fare, meanwhile? Here’s a closer look.

Closing the Gap

The proportion of students gaining top marks (an A or 7 and above) spiked to more than 20 percent. Driving this growth is a one percentage point increase to 17.1 percent among boys. Girls’ scores, however, stayed the same at 23.4 percent.

Boys also saw greater improvements in individual subjects, including chemistry, physics, biology and history.

At the highest level (grade 9s), girls also outperformed the boys: five percent received 9s compared to 3.6 percent of boys.

Nearly 90 percent of test results can be attributed to the overhauled GCSE, which included the addition of 20 new subjects, as well as the introduction of a new grading system.

Nick Gibb, the minister for school standards in England, said, “Thanks to our reforms and the hard work of teachers, education standards are rising in our schools and pupils have shown their abilities by achieving excellent results today, with so many pupils meeting and exceeding the standards we expect.”

Persisting Concerns

The new GCSE style coincides with a move to reduce the amount of assessed coursework in many courses. The result? Final exam scores hold significantly more weight in determining final grades.

While the improved exam performance is laudable, not everyone agrees that the change is an entirely positive one. Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said, “Removing most coursework and other non-exam assessment and just using end-of-course exams makes the exams extremely high stakes and is contributing to poor mental health among students.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, added, "We are concerned about the additional pressure this has placed on students and teachers and the impact on their wellbeing, and we are not clear why the government felt it necessary to ratchet up the pressure to such an extent and what this was intended to achieve.”

Learn more about the new GSCE and scores here.  

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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