There has been a fall in the proportion of GCSEs awarded an A*-C grade, for the first time since the exams were introduced 24 years ago.

Over 120,000 pupils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are receiving their results today, but with recent ONS statistics showing long-term joblessness for young people is still rising, the government has indicated it plans to make major reforms to the exam system regardless of results.

This year's results show 69.4 per cent of entries earned grades A*-C, compared with 69.8 per cent last year while there was also a fall in the proportion of pupils receiving the top A* and A grades, down to 22.4 per cent from 23.2 per cent.

But while the overall trend is down, applied subjects including Health & Social Care (9.8 per cent=A*/A) and Preperation for Life & Work (21.7 per cent=A*/A) continue to rise and this is good news for those planning to work in the family health care sector.

Speaking ahead of today's results, Graham Stuart, the chairman of the education select committee, said: "The standard of performance is better than it's ever been, the teaching is better and the pupils are cleverer but the key question is: 'Are GCSEs fit for purpose?'.

"Are they fit for purpose for young people and for the economy? The cross-party group I chaired concluded they [GCSEs] needed fundamental reforms."

These could include the re-introduction of O-levels and are likely to see greater involvement from employers.

An observation published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) questionned the purpose of GCSEs.

It suggested that England is "unusual" in having a school leaving exam at age 16, adding that: "The system in England looks rather like a leftover from a time when the majority of young people did expect to leave school at 16.

"Now that the vast majority stay on past 16 to do further qualifications, there must be some question over the role of a set of exams which may signal to some that leaving at 16 is expected, particularly in the context of Government policy to raise the 'education participation age' to 18."

Posted 23/08/2012 by richard.hook@pavpub.com