IOP welcomes increase in GCSE entries and urges girls to go on to A-level

24 August 2017

The number of entries to GCSE physics was up by 1.6% this year, while the proportion of students achieving the highest grades held steady, according to results announced today and welcomed by the IOP.

IOP welcomes increase in GCSE entries and urges girls to go on to A-level

The rise in overall entries to GCSE and to physics occurred despite the population of 16-year-olds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland falling by 2.7% since last year.

For single science GCSE physics, 41.9% of entrants got an A* or A, while 27.7% got a B and 21.3% got a C. Among girls, 91.1% achieved a grade C or above, compared to 90.5% for boys. In additional science GCSE, 10.6%of girls got an A* or A, while for boys the figure was 7.3%.

Numbers taking the science GCSE exam were down 27.6%, but in announcing the results, the Joint Council for Qualifications explained that this was due to 15-year-olds deciding to delay taking an exam in science until they can enter for the new double science GCSE in 2018.

The IOP’s head of education, Charles Tracy said: “We’re very pleased to see young people choosing physics in increasing numbers, and warm congratulations to all students who got the GCSE results that they were hoping for today – or better. We know from research that many students – including a lot of girls – underestimate their ability in physics. But once again, the results show that a high proportion of 16-year-olds do very well in physics and science more generally and that girls do just as well as boys.

“GCSE results day is a good time for students to think again about their options – including about taking A-level physics – and to base their decisions on the evidence of their results rather than on any apparent lack of confidence.”

In Wales, there has been a sharp increase in entries to additional science and separate science GCSEs, with the number sitting additional science increasing by 26% in 2017. While the proportion achieving a C grade or higher fell by 5.9%, such a change was expected as the increased entries were almost certainly drawn from students with lower prior attainment.

The IOP’s national officer for Wales, David Cunnah, said that the fact that the drop is relatively small suggests that many students who were capable of obtaining an A*–C grade were not being given the best opportunity to study the GCSE course in previous years. He said: “It is very important that as many Welsh students as possible are able to progress in science qualifications and careers. In previous years many pupils were placed on courses that effectively closed the door to their future in any scientific discipline, so we are pleased to see this trend reversing.”

In Northern Ireland, 3035 students sat GCSE physics, up 2.5% on last year. This was 2% of total entries, an increase from 1.8% last year. The number who sat GCSE science was down 9.9% and additional science down 27.9% on last year.

The IOP’s policy adviser for Northern Ireland, Dr Sheila Gilheany, said: “We are particularly pleased to see the increase in GCSE physics entries in Northern Ireland  given the decrease in Northern Ireland A-level numbers, which had been noted last week.”