Royal Society responds to GCSE results

22 August 2019


Professor Tom McLeish, Chair of the Royal Society Education Committee, said: “The Royal Society warmly congratulates this year’s GCSE students on their results today. It shows that the hard work by pupils, and support by their teachers, has been rewarded for many, and will stand them in good stead as they make their next steps, whether that is in education, training or the world of work. Where students have experienced disappointment today, we must ensure they can continue to receive the support they need to fulfil their ambitions.

“The Society is delighted to see rising numbers of students taking science subjects, with nearly 40,000 more pupils taking the Combined Award – a rise of 4.8 per cent on 2018. Entries for separate science subjects have also risen, but with Physics seeing the biggest increase. Among the sciences, Physics also saw the greatest increase in the proportion of students getting the top grades, and although boys still tend to perform better in Physics and Maths it is welcome news that girls are closing the gap in both subjects.

“It is especially gratifying to see more than 80,000 pupils choosing to study Computing, a rise of 7.2 per cent on the year before, and the number of girls studying the subject is rising nearly three-times faster than among boys. However, we cannot ignore the fact that girls still only account for 21 per cent of all entries, yet, as today’s results show, they outperform their male peers. Addressing this gender gap must be a priority for pupils and schools and the Society has argued for targeted interventions to resolve the imbalance. While the £2.4m Gender Balance in Computing programme announced by the Department for Education is welcome, tackling the severe and growing shortage of computing teachers should be a priority if we are to ensure every young person is equipped with the skills to thrive in a rapidly changing world.

“The significant rise in students taking Art and Design subjects is heartening – there were nearly 196,000 entries this year, up by 9.5 per cent on 2018. Taken alongside the rise in History, Geography and the modern languages, it suggests students are recognising the value of a broad and well-rounded education. However we cannot ignore the fact that, since the reforms, fewer pupils are now taking GCSEs in Design and Technology, Music, and Physical Education.

“A depth of STEM knowledge will be vital for the jobs of the future. But critical thinking skills informed by the arts and humanities have just as important a role to play in equipping young people to use that information creatively – a sought after skill in a job market where technology is transforming many traditional careers.”