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GCSE attainment over time

Key points

  • In 2013/14 GCSE attainment was better in Inner and Outer London than the average for England. 41% of pupils in Inner London and 38% in Outer London did not achieve 5 A*-C grades including English and Maths, compared with 47% across England.
  • Under-attainment was significantly worse in London and across England in the mid-2000s. However, it has improved much faster for London than across England, particularly Inner London, which now has lower under attainment than the average for England.
  • Methodological changes to measuring GCSE attainment are a factor in explaining rising under-attainment in 2013/14.

Pupils not attaining 5 A*-C grades at GCSE

What does the graph show?

This graph shows the proportion of pupils aged 16 not achieving 5 A*-C grades at GCSE including English and Maths for Inner and Outer London and for England as a whole.

In 2013/14 38% of pupils in Outer London and 41% in Inner London did not achieve five A*-C GCSEs including English and maths, compared with 47% across England as a whole. In the mid-2000s these rates were much higher, and the rate in Inner London was worse than England at 61% compared with 54% in 2005/06. But this gap had closed by 2010/11 and now Inner London performs better than England as whole.

There has been an upward turn, however, in 2013/14 in the number lacking five A*-C grades everywhere. This is linked to the two methodological changes in the most recent year. First, the Wolf review ruled out a number of qualifications that could be counted as GCSE equivalents on this measure. Second, in cases where exams/coursework were retaken, previously the best mark counted in this measure whereas now only the first mark counts. The dotted line for 2013/14 indicates that comparisons can only be made to the extent that they are understood within the context of these methodological changes.

Before this, in 2012/13, the proportion of pupils not achieving five A*-C GCSEs in England including English and maths very slightly increased, while attainment in London that year continued to improve. Likewise the recent upturn was steeper in England than London suggesting that pupils in London were less likely to be completing qualifications that were disregarded under the new methodology.

Data used

GCSE and equivalent attainment by pupil characteristics, DfE

Wolf review:

Indicator last updated: 16 March 2016