The 2013 GCSE results represent the biggest fall overall since the exams were introduced, with the pass rate falling by 1.3 percentage points and the top grade of A* falling by 0.5 percentage points. It is the second year running that the proportion of those being awarded at least a C grade has dropped, according to official figures from the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ).
The exam boards are blaming this drop in grades to the fact that more younger pupils are taking their GCSE exams early. 39 percent more 15-year-olds took their exams early this year, with their results being 10 percent lower than those of traditional GCSE age.
Chief executive for exam board OCR, Mark Dawe, justified the results, saying: "What we're trying to say is early entry doesn't benefit the students. Results are lower for them. These qualifications are designed for 16-year-olds."
There was also a large increase in the number of candidates who were entered multiple times for the same subject, as an attempt to obtain a C grade in one of them and improve their school's ranking in the league table. The head of the AQA exam board, Andrew Hall, called this move "perverse incentives", and the president of Pearson (who owns the Edexcel exam board), Rod Bristow, also admitted that pupils were sitting too many GCSEs just to inflate schools' positions in league tables.
As well as the early entries, another move which was blamed for the drop in results was the first set of changes to GCSE exams, which included tougher science papers, closer inspection on teachers' marking of English coursework, as well as penalties for poor spelling and grammar, and a move to increase the grade boundaries in maths.
If this year's results have got you worried about your own children's exam results for the coming years, then it might be worth considering private tuition for core subjects, such as English and maths, or for the subjects that they find more challenging.
Some extra GCSE tuition is nothing new - according to educational website TES, 25% of all 11 to 18-year-olds have received some extra private tuition at some point in their schooling, with maths tutors the most commonly sought after.
Private tuition can often achieve much more than day-to-day schooling can, which many pupils can find is full of distractions. It is important to remember that not all pupils learn in the same way, and so not all pupils will find their school lessons engaging. Private tutors have a greater passion for their subject, which makes their lessons more interesting. One-on-one focus allows pupils to concentrate and feel free to ask questions without the fear of being mocked or ridiculed by their peers. One in three parents who use private tuition services say that they don't believe that their children get sufficient support from schools, and with children now sitting SATs, important exams which can affect the rest of their schooling, in primary school and a planned new curriculum with a greater focus on end of year exams, achieving the best results possible is more important than ever.
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