Science GCSEs see largest increase in nearly 20 years

The UK may finally be on its way to producing enough homegrown scientists to compete on an international level, following the largest increase in science GCSEs in almost two decades.

Following an increase in the number of candidates sitting biology, chemistry and physics by as much as 35% on last year, and the highest percentage of passing grades since 1989, employer groups welcomed the improvement, but said more still can be done on the general education front.

“Students and teachers deserve our congratulations on these results,” said John Cridland, the CBI’s deputy director-general. “Many employers see achieving a grade C or above in both English and maths GCSE as a benchmark of employability.

“But last year, just 48% of 16-year-olds got A*-C in both maths and English, and the figure is only fractionally higher this year, which leaves around 300,000 students not reaching this level after 11 years of compulsory education.”

More than 850,000 students took the biology GCSE this year, with 48.5% getting an A or A*. Meanwhile, chemistry and physics saw more than 750,000 entrants each, with more than 51% attaining A or A* grades in both streams.

Earlier this month, the CBI called on the government and employers to do more in encouraging teenagers to stem a growing shortage in science graduates.

Chris Hannant, head of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said he was pleased by the increase in high marks.

“Overall there seems to be a reinvigorated drive for quality, but questions still remain about grade inflation and ‘dumbing down’,” he said.

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