Press release

GCSE results show surge in pupils taking valuable STEM subjects

Thousands more 17-year-olds now leaving education with good GCSEs in English and maths following reforms.

Students receiving their exam results

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan congratulated young people receiving their GCSE results today (20 August 2015) as new figures showed entries into valuable STEM subjects including maths, science and engineering have jumped by more than 78,000 in a year.

To help ensure all pupils, regardless of background, receive the best possible education, the government has championed the study of academic qualifications at GCSE through the introduction of the EBacc performance measure.

Today’s figures, released by the Joint Council for Qualifications, come a week after the latest A level results showed how the number of students taking the facilitating subjects that are more often required by top universities than others has also risen - by more than 15,000 since 2014.

Compared to 2014, today’s figures showed GCSE entries rise in:

  • maths - up 24,827 (3.4%)
  • computer science - up 18,641 (111.1%)
  • science - up 20,523 (5.5%)
  • engineering - up 1,882 (37.4%)

Overall entries for girls in STEM subjects were also up by more than 30,000, including more than 14,000 in maths.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said:

Today marks the culmination of years of hard work for pupils, teachers and parents and I want to congratulate them on their achievements.

Thanks to our reforms focused on extending opportunity, a generation of young people from all backgrounds are now securing the GCSEs that help give them the widest range of options later in life - whether looking for a rewarding job or a top apprenticeship.

This not only benefits the students involved, it means our workforce for the future is properly trained to compete in a global economy.

Fundamental skills

To ensure young people have the fundamental skills of literacy and numeracy that are vital to success in later life the government introduced changes that saw all young people who do not achieve at least a C at GCSE in English or maths at 16 continue studying until they reach that standard.

Today’s figures show the impact of these reforms. For 17-year-olds and over, entries in maths are up 30% while English entries have risen 23%. As a result there are now over 4,000 more passes in English by students aged 17 and over, and over 7,500 more maths passes.

These figures are released on the same day as statistics which show the number of 16- and 17-year-olds participating in education or training have reached their highest level since consistent records began in 2000.

EBacc

The number of entries into EBacc subjects are up this year but today’s figures show that despite claims to the contrary, the EBacc measure has not led to a fall in wider subjects with almost 300,000 entries into religious studies this year - the highest level since 2002, as well as increases in entries in the arts subjects.

Compared to last year the figures also showed:

  • entries in art and design subjects rose by 1.7% to almost 200,000
  • entries in music rose by 2.2% to almost 50,000

Early entry

To ensure pupils only take exams when they are ready the government ensured that only a young person’s first entry into an exam counts towards school performance tables. Since it came into force in 2012 there have been significant drops in 15-year-olds taking exams before they have completed GCSE courses for the full 2 years.

The figures from the JCQ show that the number of entries by those aged 15 or under has fallen:

  • by 65,509 for all GCSES
  • from 39,292 to 33,484 for maths
  • from 58,607 to 49,986 for English and English literature

There have also been falls in the number of early entries to other key subjects, including sciences, languages and humanities.

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Published 20 August 2015