GCSE results day (23/08/2018)

Published 23/08/2018   |   Last Updated 27/05/2021   |   Reading Time minutes

Today students in Wales, England and Northern Ireland receive their GCSE results. As with last week’s A level results, the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ – a membership organisation of the seven largest providers of qualifications in the UK) publish summaries of the collective results collective results of the entries of the member awarding bodies.

Decline in entries

In May 2018, Qualifications Wales published some provisional data on examination entries this year. The data found that the number of entries into GCSE in 2018 had decreased by 13 per cent since 2017. They have also published an overview of today’s results.

The decrease in entries may be due to the Welsh Government’s policy change on school performance measures (see Qualifications Wales’ guest blog on the summer 2018 examination series). Following concerns about the growing trend of year 10 pupils (or younger) being entered for GCSEs, Qualifications Wale published a report on early and multiple entry in GCSEs in Wales (October 2017). The report found that the issue was complex, but the pressure on schools to achieve against school performance measures and to compete with other schools may have driven early and multiple entry. Qualifications Wales’ report recommended that the Welsh Government should change the way that school performance measures are calculated.

The Cabinet Secretary announced on 16 February 2018 that from summer 2019, only the results of the first awarding of a complete qualification (including vocational qualifications) will count towards performance measures.

Continuing changes in GCSEs

As the changes to GCSEs in Wales continue, a further fifteen subjects will be awarded for the first time this year. GCSE are going through a programme of reform in England also. In England, a new grading scale of 9 to 1 rather than A*-G began to be introduced for some subjects last year. This year, most of the subjects taken in large numbers by learners will be graded 9-1. These do not directly correspond to the previous letter grades, so a grade 9 will not be directly comparable to a grade A*. Ofqual have published an infographic that shows how the number and letter grades will compare.


Given the continuing changes in qualifications in Wales and England, and increasing policy divergence between the two countries, it is difficult to make meaningful year-on-year, or country to country comparisons and any comparisons should be treated with extreme caution. The new grade scale cannot be directly compared with the old one, other than cumulatively at A/7; C/4; and G/1. Therefore comparisons across years; across reformed and unreformed subjects and across jurisdictions, can only be made at these grades.

Given the changes to the grading system in England, with more subjects being awarded A 9-1, no comparisons have been made with England.

The data in the table below is extracted from information published by JCQ today and the data published by JCQ on GCSE results day in 2017. Data is provisional representing the position at the time that results are issued. Data is subject to checking before final data at Wales, local authority and school level is published. The results published by the JCQ relate to ‘entries’ and not to ‘candidates’. So, for example, the data can show that performance has increased or declined at GCSE or within the grades. It cannot show whether more boys or girls achieve five or more grades A*-C at GCSE. The data relates to the outcome of the individual subject areas for all regardless of their age.

In summary:

  • The overall percentage of learners achieving grade A* remains the same as last year with an increase of 0.1 percentage points for males and a decrease of 0.2 percentage points for females;
  • Between 2017 and 2018, there has been an increase at grades A*-A for males by 0.6 percentage points. Females learners achieved the same as last year and there has been an increase of 0.3 percentage points for all learners;
  • At grades A*-C, between 2016 and 2017, there is a decrease of 2.0 percentage points for males, 1.1 percentage points for females and 1.6 percentage points for all learners;
  • There have also been decreases in attainment rates between 2017 and 2018 at grades A*-G: 0.6 percentage points for males, 1.1 percentage points for females and 1.6 percentage points for all learners;
  • Females continue to perform better than males at all levels.

Table 1: Cumulative percentage of entries achieving GCSEs by grade, 2018 (provisional)

Welsh Baccalaureate

The revised Welsh Baccalaureate (Welsh Bacc) Key Stage 4 (KS4) Skills Challenge Certificate is being awarded for the second time. The KS4 Skills Challenge Certificate is equivalent in size and demand to a GCSE. It is graded at A*-C for achievement at Level 2 and Pass* and Pass at Level 1. To be awarded the Welsh Bacc, students must achieve the Skills Challenge certificate and supporting qualifications (such as GCSEs or equivalent vocational qualifications).

Table 2: KS4 Welsh Baccalaureate

Table 3: KS4 Welsh Baccalaureate Skills Challenge Certificate results 2017 (cumulative percentage)

Article by Sian Hughes, National Assembly for Wales Research Service