Responding to the publication of GCSE results, Sir Martin Taylor, Chair of the Royal Society’s Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (RS ACME) and a member of the Royal Society’s Education Committee, said:
"On behalf of the Royal Society and its Education Committee, I offer my congratulations to everyone receiving their GCSE results. For so many, their hard work, and the efforts of the teachers and family members who have supported them throughout this period of immense disruption, has been richly rewarded.
"We cannot draw too many comparisons with grades in previous years, as necessary adjustments are made to bring them in line with pre-pandemic results. However, as Chair of the Society’s Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (RS ACME), I welcome the fact that both girls and boys continue to perform well in mathematics – with around one in five (20.1%) getting top grades (9-7/A*-A). It is also very encouraging to see the continued popularity of the science subjects, with the three separate sciences and double award all among the 10 subjects with the biggest percentage increase in entries.
"Among the other EBacc subjects it is good to see computing is also increasing in popularity. Entries have climbed back above their 2019 peak, reaching 81,120 this year - up 1.5% on 2021 after a drop off in the pandemic. However, the disparity in entries between boys and girls continues to be a significant concern. Prior to the pandemic, this gap was closing, and there were big increases in the number of students choosing to study computing. This progress appears to have stalled and getting back on track should be a priority for the next government. Computing skills are valuable for many careers, and they benefit all of us as citizens in an increasingly digital world.
“We know having specialist teachers in subjects like mathematics, computing and physics can increase the likelihood that girls, and pupils from other under-represented groups, will continue to study these subjects. The Society wants to see a renewed focus on the recruitment, retention and ongoing training of specialist teachers in the coming years.
“We should also reflect with concern on the knock-on effect that the current narrow education system is having on the subjects outside the EBacc – and the opportunities open to young people in future. Every pupil is entitled to a rounded and fulfilling education and should be provided with the opportunity and resources to study subjects like drama, design and technology, music and art alongside the EBacc subjects. The importance of engaging more young people in physical activity after the pandemic should also not be underestimated, but GCSE entries for physical education have fallen again this year. The Royal Society wants to see all young people study a much broader range of subjects to the age of 18 to ensure the UK has the creative, analytical and adaptable individuals who can thrive in a 21st century society.
“The Society is committed to increasing participation for all students and from all backgrounds, since if we are to level up our society, we must ensure all young people feel the educational offering is for them. However, as with A levels last week, we will have to wait for the crucial socio-economic data which can help identify and address these longstanding divides – and the extent of the pandemic’s lasting impact on social inequality in education.”