Press release

Department for Education comment on GCSE results

The government's reaction to the fall in GCSE pass rates at grades A* to C, and news of changes in the marking of the new English GCSE.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A Department for Education spokesman said:

Ofqual is the independent exams regulator. Its job is to make sure that standards are maintained over time and that students receive the grades that they deserve. There has been a widespread debate over the last two decades about whether there has been grade inflation - that’s why we have strengthened Ofqual’s powers to make sure the system is robust and rigorous and to give the public real confidence in the results.

Extract from Michael Gove’s interview on BBC News 24 (23 August 2012):

The decision over grade boundaries is made by the exam boards and it’s vital that it should be the exam boards and not politicians or anyone else who makes that decision…

… Exam boards, in conversation with the regulator, Ofqual, will ensure that these exams are fairly comparable with previous years. So each individual exam board will decide every year at what point they’re going to say that a certain mark will guarantee you an A, a B, or a C. And if we take English, yes the number of As and A*s has fallen but the number of Bs has increased, the numbers of Cs has, has fallen and the number of Ds has increased and that is a result of the independent judgements made by exam boards entirely free from any political pressure.

… The various chief executives of the exam boards and, indeed, the chief executive of the regulator Ofqual have made it clear… that these decisions have been made because the exam boards and the regulator have sought to ensure this year, as every year, that exam results are comparable over time so that we can all have confidence in the examination system.


  1. The full BBC news channel interview with Education Secretary Michael Gove.

  2. See Ofqual’s statement on 2012 GCSE pass rates falling and specific issue about grading in English GCSE.

  3. Comments from awarding bodies: * OCR comment * Edexcel comment

  4. From September 2012, the following changes have been made to GCSEs, including the end of modular exams. * Students starting two-year GCSE courses starting in September 2012 will have to sit their exams at the end of the course in summer 2014. * Pupils will no longer be able to re-sit individual unit exams in order to boost their marks - although they may retake the whole GCSE exam. Students will, however, be given an early opportunity to resit maths, English and English language GCSEs every November because these are key subjects needed to progress to further study or employment. * Students will be marked on the accuracy of spelling, punctuation and grammar and their use of specialist terms. In the first instance, these will be those subjects that involve extended writing - English literature, geography, history and religious studies. Five percent of total marks in these subjects will be for spelling, punctuation and grammar. Marks assessing written communication skills already exist in English and English language. The changes will affect externally assessed units from September 2012.

  5. For more detail on the [changes to GCSEs, including the end of modular exams and spelling, punctuation and grammar marks restored to exams] visit the Department for Education’s website(

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Updates to this page

Published 24 August 2012