What do we know about this summer’s post-16 GCSE maths results?

By Eddie Playfair, Senior Policy Manager at the Association of Colleges

GCSE results were published on 26 August 2022. The way the data are presented makes it difficult to summarize college results but there are some clear trends in entries and results.

This was the first summer series where students took externally set and marked public exams since 2019 and Ofqual’s aim was to achieve a grade profile broadly at the mid-point between 2019 and 2021 (the ‘high point’ of centre-assessed grades). Grade boundaries are set based on the performance of the Year 11 cohort and then applied consistently for all candidates, including post-16.

The post-16 retake cohort is not typical or predictable and different colleges have different approaches to GCSE entries. What we know is that:

  • Most of these candidates had not yet achieved a grade 4 or above, which is why they are retaking post-16.
  • Over 90% of these candidates are college based.

There is also a substantial number of post-16 candidates who retake in November and those who achieve a grade 4 or above then will not generally retake in the summer.

Exam entry numbers*

16-18 year olds202220212019
GCSE maths114,476140,339143,211

Post-16 retake numbers fell as the Year 11 grade profile rose in 2020 and 2021. Now that the Year 11 grade profile has fallen again, colleges are likely to see an increase in the number of students needing to retake. This ‘yo yo effect’ of contraction followed by growth will put pressure on colleges’ capacity to meet the need for retake provision – at a time when they face recruitment difficulties.

Results*

16-18 year olds202220212019
GCSE maths15.2%34.5%17.4%

2021 achievements are not comparable to the other two years as grades were centre assessed. For the 16-18 cohort, 2022 grade 4+ pass rates are not at the ‘midpoint’ between 2021 and 2019 but are well below the 2019 level. This can be explained by the ‘double whammy’ experienced by this retake cohort; these are students who did not achieve a grade 4 or above in 2020 and 2021 when grading was more generous than usual. As retake candidates in 2022 they have now been graded against the more demanding standard of 2022 as the system starts to return to normal. They also had less experience of sitting external exams.

Number of 16–18-year-old students achieving grade 4 or above*:

16-18 year olds202220212019
GCSE maths17,40048,41724,919

These are based on a calculated value but show the impact of 16-18 GCSE retakes. Almost every one of these students is someone who was not able to achieve a grade 4 or above at school and was supported by a college to cross this crucial threshold and transform their progression opportunities by the age of 18.

Including the November retakes

For a fuller picture of the retake position, November retake results should be included. Generally, students who achieve a grade 4 in November are unlikely to retake again, so the combined total number of achievers (November + June) is a fair estimate of the total number who have achieved a grade 4 or above post-16 that year. Adding the November 2021 results increases the total number of post-16 students achieving a grade 4 this academic year by 9,499. If adult results are also included these lifts the overall total of students achieving grade 4 or above to around 36,533.

Results by provider type

Ofqual has provided an analysis of results by provider type. Unfortunately, the categorization is not consistent with other data sources such as DfE Performance Tables, but it does provide some perspective and highlights the differences between colleges based on their cohort. For instance, retake students in colleges with a higher proportion of level 3 programmes may be more likely to have a higher-grade profile and to be ‘near miss’ grade 3 achievers with a better chance of achieving a grade 4.


*Data for 2020 have been omitted for simplicity and 2021 is the only ‘centre assessed’ year shown.