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Pupils & learning

NGA comments on 2023's GCSE and VTQ results


On behalf of school governors and trustees across the country, NGA would like to congratulate all students receiving their GCSE and vocational qualifications today.

Preparing for and sitting exams has never been easy. But the challenge is amplified by the ongoing impact the pandemic has had on learning and Ofqual’s publicised intention to begin to return to 2019’s pre-pandemic grade distributions. It took great resilience and hard work to overcome these challenges and we commend you all.  

We would also like to extend our congratulations to the teachers and other school and trust staff who continue to show their remarkable dedication and commitment in preparing and supporting students for exams amidst the challenges brought about by the pandemic. Despite disruptions to learning and changes in grading systems, you have persevered in putting the needs of your students first. Thank you for your unwavering drive and dedication.

As predicted, and similar to last week's A-level and VTQ results, GCSE results fell from last year, with over 300,000 fewer top grades (grade 7 and above) compared to 2022. This widely reflects Ofqual’s stated aim to restore normalcy to grades and marking by beginning to align with the grade distribution of 2019.

NGA continues to participate in the ongoing discussions around the suitability of the current exam system. We agree with our members and partners in the education sector that the current system for 14 to 19-year-olds still requires reform.

Sam Henson, NGA’s Director of Policy and Communications, said:

“Today continues to mark the active decision from Ofqual and the Department for Education to shift results and outcomes to reflect pre-pandemic grades. Similar to 2022, this centralised decision should not highlight negative performance issues from our schools and trusts, nor take away from the dedication and drive of our young people or the professionalism of school staff.

Governors and trustees can begin the process of comparing this year’s results with 2019, the last year that summer exams were taken before the pandemic; we must remember, however, that the impact of the pandemic remains across all aspects of the school system and will continue to impact outcomes for the foreseeable future.

The drive to pre-pandemic grade distribution also underlines trends that existed in 2019 and the need to look at exam reform seriously. This includes the continued disparity and outperformance of girls compared to boys and the need for an exam system that benefits the ‘forgotten third’, those young people who won’t achieve at least a grade 4 standard pass in GCSE English and maths by the end of 12 years of schooling.

NGA will continue to work with sector partners and its members to influence and shape this policy. "